Five Ways to Boost Brain Power
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The human brain might be small (only weighs about 3 pounds), yet this complex organ is responsible for a variety of functions, including controlling thoughts, memory, speech and movement. Neurons even send information to your brain at more than 150 miles per hour.
As you age, the brain shrinks, often leading to cognitive decline. Cooper Clinic Platinum Physician Christopher Abel, MD, shares five lifestyle choices you can make now to help boost your brain power as you age.
Researchers have found aerobic exercise has a positive effect on the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory. Exercise stimulates the release of chemicals in the brain that promote the growth of brain cells and new blood vessels.
A 2013 study from The Cooper Institute, UT Southwestern Medical Center and Cooper Clinic found those who were fit at midlife had a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias in their Medicare years.
Regular exercise can also help improve sleep and reduce anxiety and stress, all factors that can impact cognitive function. To reap the benefits, aim for 30 minutes of exercise, collective or sustained, most days of the week.
Control Blood Pressure
“One of the biggest things people can do to protect their brain is control their blood pressure,” says Abel.
Most brain disease is vascular and blood pressure driven more so than cholesterol driven, Abel adds.
When an individual has high blood pressure, the body’s organs must sustain the high pressure. This can cause organs like your heart to become enlarged, which can lead to heart failure.
“Your brain has to sustain that pressure as well, which can lead to injuries such as mini strokes,” says Abel.
Exercise has been shown to decrease blood pressure in as early as one to three months after beginning an exercise routine.
If stress or a busy schedule is keeping you from getting enough sleep at night, cognitive decline could be more likely.
“Sleep is a component overlooked by so many when it comes to brain health,” says Abel. “When you look at studies focusing on reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, sleep is a factor that stands out the most.”
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Americans spend about one-third of their day sleeping. Sleep is important in several brain functions, including how nerve cells communicate with each other.
Cooper Clinic recommends adults strive for 7-9 hours of sleep each night, which NIH studies prove to have the most cognitive benefits.
When it comes to eating for brain health, it’s important to enlist your MIND−diet that is.
Mediterranean-Dash Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, also known as the MIND diet, consists of natural, plant-based foods and has been shown to slow cognitive decline.
Researchers who studied this eating pattern found participants had a 53 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, and even moderate adherence to the MIND diet put participants at a 35 percent lower risk of developing the disease. Their rate of cognitive decline was also significantly less.
When following the MIND diet, reach for:
- Green, leafy vegetables
- Whole grains
Socializing with friends isn’t just a great way to stay connected, it can also play a key role in boosting your brain health.
“So many of our patients at Cooper Clinic stay engaged even after they retire,” says Abel. “They socialize with their friends and continue to challenge their brains.”
Exercising your mind daily is one of Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper’s seven steps to help reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Along with socializing regularly, he recommends solving crossword puzzles, playing a musical instrument, using a computer and delaying retirement when possible.
Taking control of your health and wellness early on can set the stage for your quality of life later, especially when it comes to your brain. Take the initiative now to keep brain health a top priority to lessen the risk of cognitive decline later in life.
For more information about Cooper Clinic, click here or call 972.560.2667.