Memory blips are natural as we get older, but keeping your mind active and challenged will help to keep your brain younger! Make sure you’re firing on all cylinders with Dr Hilary’s top tips for looking after your brain health.
1. Lights out
Research shows that sleeping less than seven hours a night is linked to poor brain health and memory loss, with studies showing that chemicals released during the deeper stages of sleep are vital for repairing the whole of the body, including the brain!
You could start your bedtime routine an hour earlier and leave your phone out of the bedroom to help avoid distractions that might hinder sleep.
2. Take a challenge
Whenever we do something for the first time, our brain builds new connections that keep it active and stimulated. A study with London cab drivers found that as cabbies learnt The Knowledge – the huge task of learning the 25,000 streets and landmarks in central London from memory – the taxi drivers had a significant increase in the area of the brain that looks after memory and learning called the hippocampus.
Taking up a new hobby could boost your brain health so why not learn a new language or take up a game like chess to keep your brain challenged.
3. Hearing is believing
Did you know your hearing is not just down to your ears, but everything in between your ears too! Our hearing naturally declines over time, and studies show that straining to hear forces the brain to work harder.
Over time, this effort can take its toll and lead to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia. A 2020 study published in the Lancet, reviewing risk factors for dementia, suggested people with an unaddressed midlife hearing loss may be up to five times more likely to have the condition than those without a hearing loss.
Hearing loss can also stop your brain hearing the sounds it needs to hear, causing changes to the part of the brain which looks after language and memory. Going for regular hearing checks is therefore crucial to ensuring your hearing is taken care of and you enjoy the pleasure of sound for a lifetime.
The new Oticon Real™ hearing aid features the latest BrainHearing™ technology proven to improve speech clarity and reduce listening effort even in demanding listening environments like restaurants and bars.
To get a general idea of how well you can hear, why not take our free online hearing test? It only takes five minutes and we’ll email your results to you straight away. Just follow the link to take the test now.
4. Embrace an active lifestyle
Exercise affects the brain in lots of positive ways – increasing the brain’s oxygen levels and supporting the release of hormones that help to create a healthy environment for the growth of brain cells. Exercise also helps to maintain the brain’s ‘plasticity’ – its ability to change and reorganise itself throughout life by forming new connections between brain cells.
Boost your activity levels by looking for an exercise that incorporates coordination along with getting your heart rate up, such as a dance class. Or if you prefer the gym, go to a circuits class which will not only give you a good cardiovascular workout but will keep your brain processing the next challenge too.
5. Food for thought!
We all know that a good, clean diet rich in fruit and vegetables will improve all areas of your health, but eating healthily is also linked to slowing mental health decline too. Topping the list of brain-boosting foods are avocados which are packed with vitamin K and folate, a type of vitamin B which helps to prevent blood clots in the brain, helping to protect against stroke, as well as helping to improve cognitive function, especially memory and concentration. Beetroot, blueberries, leafy green vegetables, extra virgin olive oil and salmon are all brimming with powerful antioxidants known as polyphenols that not only improve learning and memory, but can also reverse age- and disease-related changes.