Life Lessons from Smart Women: 8 Steps You Can Take To Protect Your Brain
Dr. Vivien Brown
I recently had the honour of speaking about Healthy Aging and Women’s Brain Health at an event sponsored by the Women’s Brain Health Initiative in Toronto.
The panelists were successful professional women who face both the challenges of demanding careers and managing life on the home front, busy with children, partners or aging parents.
The panelists all agreed that they needed to take more time for themselves and become more mindful about their health. This is not new. According to a survey of members of the Women of Influence organization, the importance women place on their health was “dismal”.
It’s not surprising. One of the biggest issues for women today is coping with and understanding how to moderate stress levels. Stress has become a huge issue for women and it can affect brain health and healthy aging. We all have to learn how to decrease stresses, yet embrace challenges.
While we all want to try to ‘Lean In’ and try to be wonderful partners too, we need to start to look at our own health issues and make them a priority. It is clear that you need to become more mindful and committed to looking after and loving yourself, in order to be well, energetic, capable and successful, however you personally define those parameters.
When considering steps to take to protect your brain health, always remember that there are non-modifiable risk factors, such as family history, genetics, gender and age. However, there are also significant modifiable risk factors. Below are the things you can do now to reduce your long term risk:
8 Steps can you take to protect your brain
- Get restful sleep, at least 8 hours a night, by establishing a regular sleep schedule.
- Limit your alcohol consumption to 6-9 drinks per week—excessive long-term drinking can result in neurological damage and impaired mental processing.
- Quit smoking—according to research, it damages memory, learning and reasoning. As well as a million other harmful thing!
- Reduce your levels of stress through activities like exercise and meditation, which
can decrease the rate of cellular aging, thus your risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia.
- Eat a healthy diet, avoid trans and saturated fats, get plenty of omega-3 fatty acids and enjoy a rainbow of fruits and vegetables. Studies show that women who eat more vegetables experience less risk of cognitive decline. Folic acid, vitamin B12, vitamin D, magnesium and fish oil are believed to preserve and improve brain health.
- Get regular exercise, approximately 30 minutes, 4 times per week. Recent studies show that those who workout are less likely to get Alzheimer’s and dementia, and have a reduced risk of stroke. It also increases brain volume in older adults and decreases the likelihood of experiencing even mild cognitive decline.
- Keep your brain active! Learn something new, practice memorization, and enjoy strategy games, puzzles and riddles—the more frequent and complex your cognitive activity, the less likely you are to develop Alzheimer’s.
- Maintain an active social life—friends and meaningful social engagements can decrease stress, slow the rate of cognitive aging, increase resilience to injury and increase overall quality of life. Social connectedness is a major key to healthy aging.
OK? See you at the gym!!