As you age, your brain changes along with its efficiency in mental functioning, so it is common for some people to experience mental decline. In fact, this is one of the most frightening consequences of aging.
But losing your mental faculties is not necessarily a natural part of aging. Besides, some elderly people still have vivid memories and unquestionably sharp brain functioning. Though genetics play a part in mental decline, a big part of the equation boils down to your choices – choices regarding what you do with your time and what you eat.
Nutrition experts share eight ways to help maintain your brain function.
1. Stimulate Your Mind
Based on research, brain activities can stimulate new connections between the nerve cells. This can even help your brain generate new cells, thereby building up a functional reserve, and developing neurological plasticity that will provide a hedge against cell loss in the future.
Build up your brain by engaging in mentally stimulating activities. These include reading, taking courses, and trying mental gymnastics like math problems and word puzzles.
Also, consider experimenting with things requiring manual dexterity and mental efforts like painting, drawing, and other crafts.
2. Be Physically Active
Using your muscles can also help strengthen your mind. Exercise can increase the connection between your brain cells and spur the development of new nerve cells. And this can result in a brain that is more adaptive and more efficient, which can translate to better performance.
Exercise can also improve your cholesterol levels, lower your blood pressure, reduce mental stress, and regulate your blood sugar – all of which will help your heart and brain.
3. Improve Your Diet
Good nutrition does not just help your body but also your mind. If you choose to have a diet that is heavy on vegetables, fruits, unsaturated oils, nuts, protein-rich plants and fish, you will less likely develop cognitive functioning impairment as you age.
Supplements that enhance your memory can also help. Be wary, though, because most supplements on the market today do not deliver what they promise. So consulting your physician is important, especially if you are currently taking medications.
4. Use All of Your Senses
The more senses you use, the more parts of your brain are involved when it comes to retaining memory. As you venture into unfamiliar things, challenge your senses. For instance, try to guess the ingredients as you taste and smell a new dish.
Also, give ceramics or sculpture a try, noticing the smell and feel of all the materials you are using.
5. Repeat What You Want to Know
If you want to remember the things you just read, thought about or heard, you have to write them down or repeat them out loud. This way, you will reinforce your memory. For example, if you have just known someone’s name, use it each time you speak with them.
Also, when you place your stuff somewhere other than their normal spot, speak out loud what you have done for better memory retention.
6. Be Organized
Take advantage of planners, calendars, shopping lists, maps, address books, and file folders to keep routine information easily accessible. Also, designate a place at home for your purse, keys, eyeglasses, and other items you frequently use.
Most importantly, remove all clutter from your home or office to minimize distractions so you can concentrate on new information that you wish to remember.
7. Care for Your Emotions
If you are sleep-deprived, depressed, exhausted or anxious, you can have a poor score on cognitive function tests. Though poor scores do not necessarily mean an increased risk of mental decline as you age, restful sleep and good mental health are crucial to have a healthy and young brain.
8. Create a Mnemonic Device
A mnemonic is a creative way of remembering lists. It can be used to create associations among facts, making it a lot easier for you to remember such information.
Your mnemonic device can be in the form of acronyms or sentences. These techniques use the power of the visual cortex in order to simplify the complexities of memories. For instance, a number can be used to remember a picture. However, most mnemonic techniques should be used in combination with active recall for them to be beneficial.
Cognitive impairment isn’t inevitable. Thanks to the many years of research, there are already different ways known for you to sharpen and protect your mind. Try these mind enhancement tips to ensure you have a healthy and young brain, regardless of your age.
Frank L. Jaksch Jr. is the Chief Executive Officer and a co-founder of ChromaDex. He oversees research, strategy and operations for the Company with a focus on scientific and novel products for pharmaceutical and nutraceutical markets. Mr. Jaksch earned a B.S. in Chemistry and Biology from Valparaiso University.