With the scary statistic of one in 14 people over the age of 65 having some form of dementia, learning ways to boost your brain (whether it be to help you get through a difficult Monday, or with the inevitable aging process) is as important for your health as any of the your other daily routines.
We all know about the five-a-day fruit and vege quota to give you an extra vitamin and energy boost, but what about trying the five following ways to not only boost your brain, but to inject a little fun into your day? After all, who said routines had to be boring?
7am: Dance Off
Whether it be as soon as you bounce out of bed, waltzing around in your towel post shower or whilst making your morning cuppa, blast the stereo high and get dancing. A study found links between the physical activity of dancing with a lower risk of dementia.
In fact, the study did not stop there, it recorded a 75% reduced risk of dementia in elderly people who frequently danced. Quoting Dr. Joseph Coyle, a Harvard Medical School psychiatrist who wrote an accompanying commentary: “The cerebral cortex and hippocampus, which are critical to these activities, are remarkably plastic, and they rewire themselves based upon their use.”
Assuming that the elderly participants were more accustomed to line dancing and low intensity dance styles, think of the benefits that could come about from faster and more intensive dancing around which require some “spilt-second rapid-fire decision making” as the tune and tempo change?!
8am: Puzzling Stuff
Nine letters, reduces risk of dementia by 47% and begins with “c” and ends in “d”.
Ah, the humble crossword! Yes you have heard it from your parents and grandparents but it is true, the crossword is a brain saver. Use those valuable 15 minutes on the commute into work or with your breakfast to do some crossword puzzles. A study into people over the age of 75 years found that those who did crossword puzzles four times a week had a risk of dementia that was 47% lower than those who did puzzles once a week.
12.30pm: Munch Time
Throw in some foods which contain healthy omega-3 fats into your lunch box and nourish your brain with happy fats. Research conducted into aging highlighted the benefits of a moderate diet of walnuts, approximately one ounce daily, to enhance motor and cognitive skills and even boost memory (this will come in handy for your crosswords!)
Other brain happy foods include, fatty fish such as mackerel and salmon, which also contain mood-elevating vitamin B12, and oatmeal, a low fat and low carb way to nourish your brain with memory-enhancing glucose.
As a treat, end your meal with yogurt – it helps produce neurotransmitters, improving signals amongst neurons which means that you will feel happier! Greek yoghurts gets the biggest thumbs up as it has more protein than regular yogurt so its good for those of you who want to fill up without filling out.
4pm: Dark Chocolate
Yes that’s right, grab a bar on the way into work and enjoy a few squares as a mid-afternoon pick-me-up! In a recent study into the effects of dark chocolate, results from participants who drank between 520mg to 990mg of cocoa a week for eight weeks recorded improvements in cognitive tests. Flavanols in dark chocolate, are “thought to reduce the risk of dementia by protecting brain cells from damage and increasing blood flow around the brain”.
Ultimately the study indicates that eating dark chocolate could help to lower blood pressure, lower resistance to insulin and ultimately slow down the progression of dementia. A slight warning though, dark chocolate is known to be somewhat of an aphrodisiac…!
8pm: A Night Cap
It appears that a small nightcap may lower the risk of dementia. According to a study conducted at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, moderate drinkers, especially of wine, were 23% less likely to develop dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive impairments. What is moderate? The study states moderate as a maximum of one glass per day for women and two for men.
Studies into this area are still in the beginning stages and have to be weighed up against other lifestyle factors such as healthy eating and exercise but if you are accustomed to a glass of wine in the evening you may be on to a good thing (provided you also eat walnuts, dancing around the lounge and nibble on dark chocolate whilst doing a crossword!).
While there are many contributing factors leading to dementia and other brain related illnesses, looking after your brain (and body) is as close to an insurance policy as you’re going to get when it comes to staying healthy. Therefore, why not have a little fun while you’re at it…. starting with a 7am dance tomorrow!
Do you have any secrets to boost your brain? Perhaps you’re a believer in vitamins, puzzles or have sourced some secret formula from the depths of the Amazon! We’d love to hear your secrets, please share them below!