When we think about what it means to be healthy, we tend to first think of obvious things like exercising, eating well and preventing weight gain.
Not that these fundamental factors don't contribute to good overall health, but too often they entirely steal the limelight, taking the attention away from less talked-about topics, like for example, brain health.
September is World Alzheimer’s Month, which means now is a better time than ever to educate yourself about what you can do keep your mind in good health.
Luckily, many of the habits that contribute to a healthy noggin, are the same habits that help us maintain good overall health.
Here’s what you can do to help keep your mind sharp and reduce your risk of cognitive decline.
Help Guide experts Melinda Smith, M.A., Lawrence Robinson, and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D recommend the following six healthy habits as "pillars" for Alzheimer’s prevention:
1. Regular Exercise — At least 150 minutes per week at a moderate intensity. This should also include strength-building exercises and exercises that help to promote balance and coordination.
2. Regularly Eating a Nutritious Diet — Some studies have shown that the Mediterranean Diet is particularly helpful in preventing cognitive decline. It’s also helpful to make sure you’re getting plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, fruits and vegetables.
3. Regular Mental Stimulation — Learn new things, practice memorization, do puzzles and riddles, etc.
4. Regularly Getting Quality Sleep — Some studies have shown that regular, quality sleep is necessary for flushing toxins from the brain. Plus, poor sleep habits are associated with many other negative effects such as an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and impaired immunity..
5. Stress Management — Practice deep breathing, schedule relaxing activities, like yoga, meditation or walking, into your daily schedule, and participate in activities you enjoy. Stress takes a toll on your entire body, but especially the brain (it can even lead to brain shrinkage), so this step is particularly important when it comes to Alzheimer’s prevention and maintaining good overall health.
6. Maintaining an Active Social Life — Research has shown that social engagement not only helps improve our memory and cognition, but that it may even prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia later on in life. Try volunteering, joining a club, taking group exercise classes or making a weekly date with a group of friends.
The Bottom Line: The most important thing to know about all of these habits is that research shows that maintaining a combination of all six likely provides the greatest benefit in promoting good cognitive health and preventing against Alzheimer’s.
As the Help Guide experts explained, “The more you strengthen each of the six pillars in your daily life, the healthier and hardier your brain will be. When you lead a brain-healthy lifestyle, your brain will stay working stronger… longer.”