For the next few years, the worldwide trend is that cases of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s, will continue to rise. In a very realistic context, cases should almost triple by 2050, according to an estimate presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference. In this scenario, it is important to seek strategies to maintain brain health, from when you are young.
Brain development is complete around age 20. Past this point, gradually, cognitive functions begin to decline. In other words, after this period, it is already important to exercise the mind in order to obtain advantages in the future, even if it is still distant.
According to neuroscientists, lower cognitive ability and the risk of dementia are impacted by different modifiable risk factors, such as healthy eating and having a close network of friends and/or family. This means that, in part, they can be prevented.
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“There are reasons to be optimistic, because there are things you can do, like habits you can adopt, to keep your brain functioning and protect yourself from the risk of dementia,” explains cognitive neuroscientist Christian Jarrett, in an article for the journal Science Focus.
Here are 6 habits that help keep your brain healthy as you age:
1. Build a cognitive reserve
To maintain brain health, it is important to build a cognitive reserve (CR). This “is a concept proposed to explain the discrepancy observed between the degree of brain injury or pathology and its clinical manifestations”, define the researchers from the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul (PUCRS), in an article in the journal psychology.
From the cognitive reserve, “some people compensate better than others the degeneration caused by age or neurological disease”, complete the team. In short, it’s the brain’s ability to resist injury, which also protects against aging.
“If a person has high cognitive reserve, even if they show some of the biological markers of Alzheimer’s disease, it is possible that they still perform well on tests of their mental capacity. damage,” explains neuroscientist Jarrett.
To increase this reserve, the individual needs to exercise the brain. In this regard, the following examples can be considered:
- To read;
- Play musical instruments;
- Assemble jigsaw puzzles;
- Learning a second language;
- Travel and discover new cultures.
2. Have friends
It is important to maintain a network of contacts and face-to-face meetings with friends and family as you age. Even efforts towards resocialization are important after the toughest months of the covid-19 pandemic, where social contact was greatly affected.
Published in scientific journal Aging Research Reviews, a study from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands revealed that “people with a lower level of social participation, less frequent social contact and more feelings of loneliness have an increased risk of developing dementia”. Now, it’s always worth remembering that talking and getting involved in projects tend to help the brain and boost mental health.
On the other hand, the same scientists discovered that it is not necessary to have dozens of friends to obtain these benefits. “The results of the association between network size and dementia were inconsistent,” they explain.
3. Practice physical activities
To function, the brain depends on oxygen and other different nutrients and this demand is directly linked to the proper functioning of the circulatory system – usually represented by the heart. As a rule, it is possible to think that the healthier the components of the system are, the better the brain will function. On the flip side, “a sedentary lifestyle and obesity are associated with faster cognitive decline and increased risk of dementia,” says the neuroscientist.
Seeking to stimulate the heart, different types of physical activities can be adopted, such as swimming, running, cycling, playing football or going to the gym. However, people who enjoy low-impact activities should also maintain an active life. In these cases, you should choose to walk or climb stairs daily.
4. Be curious
Research shows that brain health can be connected to an individual’s personality, especially when he achieves a high score on Openness to Experience. — this is one of the five personality traits. The term points to people who are curious and seek out new experiences frequently.
Analyzing the risk of dementia from different personality types, scientists at the University of Georgia, USA, found that the curious had a lower risk of the brain entering, in an accelerated way, in the process of cognitive decline. The study was published in the journal Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology.
“This study suggests that personality may be a powerful and clinically useful predictor of memory ability in this heterogeneous population,” the authors reinforce. In other words, it’s time to study new subjects (like math, languages or even neuroscience) or get to know other cultures.
5. Eat healthy foods
If exercising helps the body to boost its performance and avoids the risk of dementia, healthy eating is another important point for the brain to function well and remain active for long periods.
For this, people should adopt balanced diets, with fruits, vegetables and vegetables. These foods provide the body with antioxidants and fight free radicals that accumulate in excess in the brain with old age. In addition, the consumption of fried foods and processed foods should be reduced.
6. Adopt positive thinking
To reduce the risk of dementia, it is important to cultivate a positive outlook on life. “An increasing amount of research suggests that your attitudes towards aging can have real consequences for your neural health. If you expect to become increasingly sluggish and prone to forgetfulness, this could become a self-fulfilling prophecy,” explains Jarrett. .
In general, performing simple activities throughout life, such as maintaining a good diet and practicing physical activities with some constancy, are important and necessary. In the future, these habits may be responsible for ensuring an active, healthy old age, most likely far from dementia.
Source: Science Focus, Psychology, Aging Research Reviews and Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology