Exercise and healthy eating are often mostly, or even only, viewed as activities for our physical health. We look at exercise and diet as a chore, simply for the purpose of keeping our waistlines in check. But had you ever thought that hitting the gym could be good for your brain?
Research into dementia and ageing suggest that lifestyle choices are your best bet for preventing Alzheimer’s. This is encouraging – as we had always been told that it is based on genetics, and largely out of our hands. We now know that we have some control. By making good lifestyle choices as preventative measures, we can significantly reduce the chance of dementia, and even help to slow it down in the case of an individual already diagnosed. While genetic factors are out of your control, many powerful lifestyle factors are within your sphere of influence. We can look at this in six parts:
The six pillars of a brain-healthy lifestyle are:
- Regular exercise
Add this to your day timer: Find Your Daily 30. Just thirty minutes everyday is recommended for brain function. That’s probably about the distance you walk your dog, get to the grocery store, or walk to the coffee shop with a neighbor.
- Healthy diet
Look for more nutritious ingredients – using ‘simple’ products (ie fewer ingredients on the list – raw vegetable being one ingredient and therefore the best) is a good start. Limiting ‘bad’ things like processed or fast food, liquor, and red meats will get you the rest of the way.
- Mental stimulation
Join a book club, or play ‘mental games’ more often.
- Quality sleep
Eight hours is recommended for most adults. If that is difficult for you, start with the other five pillars and the sleep should come.
- Stress management
Find healthy ways to deal with your stress, and not sweat the small stuff. Pillar One – exercise – is regularly proved to be the best natural stress-buster.
- An active social life
When we are busy, stressed, or battling health issues, our social life can often be the first victim. It is vital to reach out and enjoy time with the people who matter to you. Start going to a regular fitness class, or join a local community group in favor of a charity that is important to you.
These six pillars can see like a long list, but chances are you’re already doing alright with some, but need work on others. Write down the six pillars, with two columns for each: what are you doing well; and what could you do better?
What do you do now for your mental health?