How to boost your Brain Power as you grow older
One of the worst side effects of growing old that most people seem to complain about is the effects on the brain and the memory. But recently the idea that we can train our brains to maintain or boost our mental performance has gained popularity – but how exactly do we do this?
I came across an article on Abc.net.au which explored some of the techniques, according to its ratings winner, Redesign my brain. These are some of the techniques that are commonly used by the industry to get people’s brains operating better.
In the article it was suggested that due to our ageing population, it is probable that an epidemic of dementia lies in our future. However it also warns that the use of brain training exercises to reduce the risk of dementia is controversial and according to a neuroscientist and researcher at Alzheimer’s Australia the evidence is “thin” to support this technique for dementia reduction. She explains:
“Certainly some of the companies and websites will say it will help prevent dementia, but basically they’re telling fibs,” she says.
The good news is there’s “quite a lot of research” showing there are things you can do that can make a difference in reducing your risk of dementia – and it comes down to your lifestyle, she says.
Farrow goes on in the article to suggest some exercises to keep the brain functioning as well as possible as we age.
The first thing Farrow recommends is staying mentally active and doing things that make you think and learn because as she explains,
“We know from lots of research that people who do more stimulating activities throughout their life have better brain function and a lower chance of developing dementia.”
She suggests that in addition to just doing crossword puzzles, sudoku etc. we should consider taking up a second language or study a course in something or even learning a musical instrument – activities that will stimulate the brain.
It is also important to stay socially active by maintaining a network of friends and acquaintances. For some reason staying socially connected with large networks of friends seems to be good for the brain probably because it is another kind of mental activity which stimulates the brain. It involves understanding facial expressions, body language etc. requiring different parts of the brain working.
Farrow also suggests staying physically active including increasing your heart and breathing rate. The post goes on to explain:
Over the past five to 10 years, the evidence has grown that you need to keep your body active as well as your mind, if you want a healthy brain. It’s partly because exercise helps keep your blood vessels in good shape, Farrow says. “The blood vessels in your brain are absolutely vital, and the healthier we can keep those, the better off we’ll be. But studies also show physical activity helps with growing new brain cells and new connections between brain cells. It also boosts the levels of some chemicals in the brain that help keep brain cells healthy.”
Farrow goes on to suggest eating well and maintaining a healthy, well balanced diet. She says an overall well balanced diet is best. Some foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as oily fish may be beneficial in keeping the brain healthy. Foods rich in antioxidants like fruits and vegetables are also an important part of the diet.
We also must manage or cardiovascular risk factors. This includes keeping a healthy range of blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels because as she explains the brain might be only 2 per cent of our body weight but it uses 20 per cent of our blood supply. So there’s a high demand on our blood vessels to supply the brain with the oxygen and nutrients it needs. Therefore if your blood vessels aren’t healthy then your brain won’t be either.