The Brain Health Guide
The human brain controls every part of your life. Without it, you would not live, breathe, move, think, feel, or speak. Your brain continually works to ensure your body remains functioning each day.
However, our brain health threatens our well-being. Conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s may impact us as we age by hindering our memory and functionality.
Manipulating your lifestyle can preserve your brain health where your genetics fail. You can control your intake, activity, stress, sleep, socialization, hobbies, and supplements. By making the right decisions in these areas, you can improve your brain’s health and extend your lifespan.
Keep reading the brain health guide to learn more about keeping your mind sharp as you get older.
Activities That Are Good for the Brain
Our brains require stimulation to stay sharp and healthy. By engaging in varied activities, we can strengthen our minds to ward off brain disorders down the line.
Exercise not only keeps your body fit: it also improves your brain. Moving your body frequently increases circulation and boosts your memory, mood, and learning abilities. Furthermore, it reduces stress and helps you get more sleep.
A study comparing endurance runners’ brains with sedentary individuals showed that active people have better functional brain connectivity. The connections between their brain regions were stronger, suggesting that they could carry out cognitive functions like decision-making, switching attention, and planning for longer than inactive people.
You do not need to run a marathon to stay healthy. Other forms of exercise better engage your brain, such as dance. According to the CDC, learning a dance routine can increase your memory, focus, thinking, planning abilities, organization, and attention.
If you want to start dancing, try these tips:
- Try a Zumba or Jazzercise class
- Follow along with a dance tutorial on YouTube
- Take salsa or ballroom dance lessons with your partner
- Go line dancing with your friends
- Head to your community center for ballet, jazz, hip hop, tap, or contemporary classes
Whether you roll out the yoga mat or head to the park for some tai chi lessons, meditative movement can boost your brain health. It reduces stress, teaches healthy breathing techniques, enhances sleep, and increases memory.
Research shows that long-term tai chi practice can reform your brain. Tai chi practitioners have thicker cortices in multiple regions, indicating increased brain volume. Scientists find these results in those who practice meditation and steady-state aerobic exercise as well.
Any movement that lets you relax your thoughts and focus on your breath is imperative for your brain health. Try taking a tai chi or yoga class and bringing some of the moves with you each day. These workouts help with balance and flexibility, two vital areas of fitness.
Taking brisk walks for 30 minutes five days a week meets your aerobic activity quota as it builds endurance without straining your joints. Aerobic activity boosts endorphins, reduces depression, increases attention, and improves memory, specifically if performed in nature.
You can think of it as a “use it or lose it” scenario. By continually stimulating your mind, you can promote brain cell growth and improve your functionality.
Learn Another Language
Learning another language has numerous cognitive benefits, such as improved memory, creativity, and visual-spatial skills. You may become better at multitasking as your brain can more readily switch between languages. Having to think about what you are saying may delay cognitive decline.
Even if you never become fluent, studying a new language helps you sharpen your mind. Try a few DuoLingo or Drops lessons the next time you feel bored.
Learn (And Then Teach) a New Skill
If you have always wanted to learn to do something, go for it. Learning a new skill that you find cognitively demanding and novel improves episodic memory as you age. You can try your hand at quilting, horseback riding, embroidery, computer programming, car repair, painting, or writing.
Engaging in creative activities can help you express your thoughts, especially if you do them by hand. You can strengthen your learning capabilities and reduce stress by trying new skills.
Once you have mastered the hobby, why not teach it to someone? You will reinforce your learning through practice and help your friend take on a skill.
Expand Your Vocabulary
Building your vocabulary helps you sound and stay smart. Vocabulary tasks involve multiple areas of the brain, especially those relating to auditory and visual processing.
If you want to increase your vocabulary, you can start reading more books. Reading challenging books helps you with problem-solving and memory retention. By keeping a notebook beside you, you can write down any new terms you learn to integrate into your vernacular. Look up the definition and try to use it three times that day to cement it in your mind.
Another way to test your mental fitness is by switching sides. If you are right-handed, try performing everyday tasks with your left hand. You can swap forks, pencils, chopsticks, baseball bats, or anything else you use on your dominant side.
Suddenly, a mundane task will become challenging as you switch to your non-dominant side. You can try this activity when completing tedious work to spark some interest while you finish your business.
Games That Are Good for the Brain
If you want to challenge your mind directly, you can try some brain games.
One of the best games to play to expand your vocabulary and get you to think are word games. Things like Scrabble and crosswords force you to focus on one task while learning words and making new associations between terms and definitions.
Word games develop your verbal skills and may delay memory decline in those with dementia. You can play these games on an app, newspaper, book, or board set.
Who knew you could play so many games with 52 pieces of paper? Card games stimulate the minds of children and adults, and you can readily learn a new one to challenge yourself further.
A 2015 study showed that card games expand brain volume, improve thinking skills, and increase memory. Playing with a deck of cards may even prevent Alzheimer’s disease by maintaining cognitive functions and brain structures.
You can try a bunch of card games, such as:
- Crazy Eights
- Devil’s Grip
- Egyptian Ratscrew
- Gin Rummy
- Go Fish
- Spider Solitaire
Anything other than 52 card pickup should do the trick. If you aren’t a fan of traditional card games, you can try Mahjong, a tile-based game that you can purchase in card form.
Most of these games have digital and paper options, helping you do them anywhere. You can choose a social or solitary option or play with somebody online.
Consider whipping out a deck of cards the next time you are bored and want to test your reflexes and cognition.
Puzzles are an incredible way to exercise the right and left hemispheres of your brain.
Jigsaw puzzles are time-suckers that require creativity, logic, and intuition. You can opt for gorgeous scenes that would make an excellent addition to your coffee table or choose something silly for a fun evening.
A study showed that jigsaw puzzles engaged cognitive abilities when performed regularly. They can delay visuospatial cognitive aging as well.
If you like numbers, try out sudoku. This number puzzle requires you to fill in a grid with numbers, with each number from 1-9 appearing once in each column, row, and square. It encourages you to think critically and concentrate. Sudoku relies on your short-term memory, and playing it can improve your memory in the long run.
Try to increase the difficulty level of sudoku as you play. The most relevant part of brain games is continuously challenging yourself. You can participate in this game digitally or on paper, as long as you use a pencil.
One of the most popular puzzles is the Rubik’s Cube, known for the 43 quintillion moves you can make. Solving the cube makes for a productive way to test your brain during your free time. Next time you are waiting in a doctor’s office, pull out a Rubik’s Cube for a challenge.
The sole purpose of many digital games is to train your brain. If you want to improve your focus and memory, you can try these apps on mobile and desktop platforms.
Lumosity is a well-established brain-training program supported by science. You can play with a free or paid account to try out new brain games. The app tracks your progress to show you how you are boosting your mental fitness.
Peak is an app featuring brain games that test your problem-solving, focus, mental agility, and memory. You can compete against other users and see how you compare with those who own the app. Peak offers free and paid subscriptions to challenge yourself on the go.
Another well-received app is Elevate. You can work on your math, reading, speaking, and writing skills to brush up on your primary education. The app measures your progress, showing you how much you have improved each day.
If you don’t want to spend anything, you can try out Braingle. This website offers more than 15,000 logic problems, brainteasers, puzzles, trivia, and riddles to challenge your mind. All of the options let you test your mind in a new way each day.
The last program we recommend is HAPPYneuron. You can try out personalized training based on your cognitive strengths and weaknesses. They offer a “Wellness” and “Performance” program for differing personalities.
HAPPYneuron has individual coaching, tracking tools, and motivation. The program begins with a warm-up before going to training and maintaining the skills you gained.
The Brain Health Guide would not be complete without discussing brain foods. The human brain is 60% fat and 40% carbohydrates, protein, salts, and water. By consuming the vital nutrients that compose the brain, you can maintain your health.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids aid with brain development and maintenance, making them a crucial component of your diet. You can take fish oil or a vegan omega-3 supplement or eat the fatty acids regularly. Some potent sources of omega-3 fatty acids include:
- Animal brains
- Macadamia nuts
- Flax seeds
- Chia seeds
- Hemp seeds
While many nuts are rich in omega-3, they have high levels of omega-6 fatty acids that may lead to inflammation, asthma, cancer, heart disease, arthritis, and depression when consumed excessively.
Vegetables provide tons of micronutrients that can promote brain health.
Broccoli has antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that prevent brain damage. It also has tons of vitamins, including K, C, and E, and minerals like selenium, iron, and zinc. These vitamins and minerals contribute to an improved memory as they partly compose the brain.
Kale has beneficial components like sulforaphane. Sulforaphane is a phytochemical that prevents cancer, heart disease, and cognitive decline. Some people have trouble digesting kale, so ensure you choose dinosaur kale and steam or boil it before eating.
Another helpful leafy green is spinach. This vegetable is rich in vitamin C, folate, lutein, beta-carotene, and chlorophyll. These components benefit your blood and have antioxidants that fight against cognitive decline. Make sure you boil or steam the spinach to reduce the oxalate content.
Deeply colored berries have anthocyanins that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. They reduce oxidative stress, which can prevent neurodegenerative diseases. They can help your brain cells communicate, improve memory, and boost cognition.
Try to cook or remove the skins of berries to reduce the number of tannins in your diet. Consuming too many tannins can hinder your absorption of iron.
Some other foods that may help with your brain health include:
- Caffeinated tea
- Dark chocolate
- Pumpkin seeds
Any food rich in vitamin C, B vitamins, choline, flavonoids, zinc, magnesium, copper, iron, and antioxidants can improve your cognitive function.
Plenty of activities, games, and foods improve your brain health. By engaging in exercise, trying new activities, learning words, playing challenging games, and eating a varied diet, you can prevent brain disorders.
If you want to make use of the Brain Health Guide, be sure to utilize a few of these tips each day to keep your mind sharp for years to come.