Friday, October 26, 2012

Ten Ways to Keep Your Brain Healthy

Lifelong Learning is always promoting the benefits that come with participating in lifelong learning programs. Keeping your brain sharp and preventing mental decline involves more than just the brain itself. Healthy practices in many areas of life will help you keep your brain, as well as your body, in tip top shape. Here are 10 easy ways to help keep your brain healthy now and prevent illnesses later:

1.               Lead an active life.  Regular exercise helps prevents memory problems that often come with aging. Physical activity can actually improve the brain function of people with mild cognitive impairment.

2.               Exercise your brain. Take lifelong learning classes! An active brain stays sharp and continues to produce new connections between nerve cells. Studies have shown the benefits of regularly working crosswords and other brain challenges.  Other things to consider are reading, playing games such as chess, and learning a new hobby. 

3.               Get a sufficient amount of sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night.  Sleep enables the body and brain to heal and recharge so that you are healthier and are able to think more clearly.  Sleep also helps you have a better long-term memory.

4.               Eat a healthy diet.  A diet that is low in saturated fats, sugar, bleached white flour and junk foods and which has an abundance of colorful fruits and veggies will keep your brain healthy as well as keeping your body trim and protect you against diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

5.               Include plenty of antioxidants in your diet. Numerous studies have shown that a diet rich in antioxidants helps prevent and slow age-related declines in memory and learning. Among the very best sources of antioxidants are blueberries, dark grapes and pomegranates.

6.               Avoid and manage stress.  Stress can damage your brain by releasing destructive hormones.  Some of the best ways to manage stress include simplifying your life, avoiding stressful situations, volunteering for an organization you care about-how about Lifelong Learning? And, utilizing special techniques such as yoga and meditation.

7.               Integrate plenty of essential omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. Omega-3s help to guard the brain against age-related decline and maintain proper brain function throughout life.  Some of the best omega-3 sources include fatty cold water fish such as tuna, sardines, mackerel, and herring.

8.               Make time to be social! Interacting with other Lifelong Learning members keeps your brain active and sharpens thinking.

9.               Quit smoking. According to the Mayo Clinic, smokers have twice the risk of developing Alzheimer's.  Even people who have smoked for years can reduce their risk of memory problems by quitting.

10.            Only have one drink at happy hour. While low to moderate amounts of alcohol, especially red wine, have been shown to protect against heart disease and cancer, heavy drinking (more than 14 drinks each week) actually shrinks brains.

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