by Dr. Kristen Bovee, Peninsula Naturopathic Clinic | Hydrate IV Wellness Centre –
The mind and our memory are arguably the most important aspects of health as we age. It is a common complaint that memory is not as sharp as when we were younger. Finding that lost word, searching for your keys (again), walking into the room and forgetting what we were looking for: these are daily struggles for many, as we get older. The question is why some people’s minds stay sharp into the later decades and why others lose (significantly) the capability to have clear thoughts and an effective memory. The following are some clinically studied approaches to keep the mind sharp as we age.
1) Exercise your mind: Stimulate the brain in different ways to keep multiple neurons firing and create new neuronal connections. Effective mental exercises include doing brainteasers such as puzzles, crosswords and Sudoku. Read books and magazines of different genres. Write your memoirs or a book you’ve wanted to complete. Educate yourself. Take a continuing education course, learn a new language or sign up for a hobby class. Play games. Card and board games are both fun and mentally stimulating.
2) Socialize: By socializing, you are creating and maintaining conversation. Meet up with friends, neighbours, family and strangers to discuss different topics. Join groups that regularly meet up such as a walking group or a book club, or volunteer for a cause you are passionate about. Join a gym. Keeping your activities varied helps as it stimulates different neuronal areas in the brain.
3) Be physical: Keeping your body fit can have as much benefit for your mind as it does on your heart. The brain continually needs oxygen. When we exercise we stimulate our breathing, which increases the oxygen in our body, and it improves circulation to allow the blood to flow more effectively to the brain. Varying the type of exercise you do can also stimulate the brain: doing an aerobic or dance class will not only make your heart rate go up, but will also require significant concentration to keep up with the class.
4) Reduce stress: Emotional issues leading to stress, anxiety or depression will cause the brain to shut down memory and focus. Ways to reduce stress can include exercise, yoga, meditation, counselling and journalling. Seek a professional to help with stress if you’re not sure what to do.
5) Feed your brain: Your diet plays a significant role in your brain function. Reducing sugar and animal fats has shown to prevent mental decline. Consuming a diet high in antioxidant-rich foods such as berries, dark leafy greens and red and orange vegetables will protect the brain from damage. Eat more Omega-3 rich foods such as fish, flax and hemp oil. Green tea and coffee support brain health whereas alcohol causes damage. Research shows that a Mediterranean-style diet rich in fish, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, olives and nuts helps maintain brain health and may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other degenerative brain disorders.
The state of our mind is a major determinate of our overall health. Our diet is foundational. Keeping the mind stimulated using both physical and mental exercise, staying active within our community and maintaining healthy stress levels are all important approaches to a happy brain.