Tips for Optimal Brain Health and Aging Well

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Our brains are amazing organs, coordinating and running everything from our memories to our physical function to emotions and so much more. But just like every other aspect of our body, our brains change as we age, and our mental function can change along with it. Memory decline is a common symptom of aging, and these days, it’s a very feared consequence.

Our mental capacities naturally start to decline in our 60s and 70s. Many older adults automatically assume that any sort of mental decline is due to a cognitive disease like dementia, but that’s simply not so. Cognitive diseases aren’t a normal part of aging, and the normal mental decline that comes from aging can actually be lessened with a variety of different techniques.

No matter how old or young you are, there are things that you can start doing right now to improve your brain health and lay the foundation you need to age well. Maintaining brain function is something all of us can do with very little effort. Our brains are quite elastic and can remain quite sharp throughout our lifetimes. We’ve found that even individuals living with dementia can benefit from good brain health.

In honor of Brain Awareness Week, we’ve put together some of our top tips for keeping your brain healthy and happy. You may even already be doing some of these things. It’s good to know exactly what things you can and should be doing so you can more intentionally work on your brain health.

The best part is that the things that keep your brain healthy are things that keep your whole body healthy. By following these tips, you’ll give yourself the best chance to age well and remain happy and active no matter how old you are.


Practice a heart-healthy lifestyle.

The most important thing you can do in order to keep your brain healthy is to live a lifestyle that keeps your heart and cardiovascular system in tip-top shape. Your brain is nourished by oxygenated blood, which is carried throughout your body using a network of veins and arteries. Issues like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, clogged arteries and other cardiovascular problems increase the risk of health concerns like stroke – which can lead to damaged or dead brain cells.

Experts recommend eating a heart-healthy diet filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins like fish and chicken, healthy fats like avocados and olive oil, foods rich in antioxidants and omega-3s and avoiding fatty meats, saturated fats, overuse of sugar and salt and reducing your alcohol intake. Other things you can do to live a heart-healthy lifestyle include getting regular physical exercise, maintaining a healthy weight and working with your doctor to ensure that any health issues are being managed well.


Keep your brain active.

Research has shown that, just like with your muscles, the brain has an element of “use it or lose it” as you age. Activities that use your brain can help build and maintain new connections between nerve cells and may actually even help generate new cells. This phenomenon is known as “neuroplasticity” and is what allows stroke victims and those with traumatic brain injuries to build back their abilities. Experts agree that continuing to do interesting activities that challenge your mind and stimulate the brain as a whole can help build up a “functional reserve” that can help prevent future cell damage and loss.

Keeping your brain active doesn’t mean you have to learn physics or calculus. Any activity that mentally stimulates your brain cells will help. The best activities are ones that you find engaging, intriguing and enjoyable. Word puzzles, math problems and logic problems are all great games you can play to help build up your brain in a solitary fashion. Other good activities pair brainpower with physical activities, like painting, drawing, learning a new craft, playing an instrument or dancing.

Staying socially active is another way of keeping your brain active. Conversing with others and forming connections boost our moods, regulate our emotions and also keep us active. Oftentimes, social events can be paired with other activities, such as exercise or other learning experiences. Emotional and social networks have also been shown by their nature to help reduce stress and improve blood pressure, which definitely has a positive impact on your heart, and brain health.


Get a good night’s sleep regularly.

Sleep is your body’s “reset” button. It gives your body a chance to clear out toxins. As it turns out, recent research has shown that sleep helps clear the brain of beta-amyloids, which have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

As we get older, it can be harder to get a good night’s sleep due to our changing bodies. In order to set yourself up for success, make sure that you’re practicing proper sleep hygiene. First, make your bedroom a haven for sleep – that means getting rid of televisions and other distractions. This way, your brain will automatically get in the mode for “sleep” when you’re in your room. Be sure that the room is dark enough, cool enough and sound-proofed enough. This may mean investing in things like light-blocking curtains or a white noise machine.

Start setting a nighttime routine, too. Shut off screens at least an hour before bed – computers, tablets and televisions emit a blue light that can interrupt our brain frequency and keep us awake. Avoid caffeine and alcohol in the evening. Finally, do something soothing that relaxes you that will put your mind and body in a mood for sleep. Read a chapter of a book, drink a hot cup of herbal tea or take a bath.

As with any healthy habits, it can take a little bit of time to find and get into a routine. However, by changing just a few things in your daily life, you’ll be able to make your brain as healthy as possible.


Exceptional Care & Engaging Lifestyle

Bridges® by EPOCH provides exceptional memory care in a comfortable and engaging environment. Designed specifically to support those with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, our community delivers a wellness-focused lifestyle that respects individual preferences and abilities. Our teams receive ongoing, specialized training so they may help residents to safely exercise their independence in a secure, calm environment.


Dedicated Memory Care

Our expert dementia care and comprehensive services are tailored to meet the unique needs of our residents, wherever they are on their journey with memory loss. Our life-enrichment programs are personalized to residents’ interests and abilities, providing joy and meaning in daily life and enhancing emotional well-being.


Purpose-Built Design

Bridges® by EPOCH is more than a safe, beautiful place to live; it’s truly a home, where compassionate, dementia-educated caregivers help people with memory loss live more fulfilling lives. Our research-based design features soft lighting and colors, non-glare flooring, directional cues, aromatherapy and interactive life-enrichment stations that empower residents to comfortably move about their home with confidence.


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