Every mental health therapist knows the importance of doing everything we can to keep our brains healthy and our minds sharp. Since November is Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, this is a great time to focus on ways to keep the mind functioning at its best. While there is no known way to fully prevent Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, keeping yourself as physically healthy and mentally alert as possible has been shown to help. Here is a list of 10 ways to help keep your brain healthy for many years to come.
1. Exercise. There is increasing evidence that regular aerobic exercise may actually be the single best thing you can do for the health of your brain. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise every other day for optimal mental and physical health.
2. Get an adequate number of calories in your diet. Eating too much can make the brain sluggish, but eating too few calories can also impair brain function and lead to distraction, confusion and memory impairment.
3. Go ahead and have that coffee. There has been plenty of conflicting evidence over the years, but the growing collective opinion seems to be that a moderate caffeine habit may protect your brain. Two cups a day may not only stave off cognitive decline but decrease your chances of getting Alzheimer’s by 30%. If you don’t like coffee, tea is a healthy alternative.
4. Practice yoga or meditation, or find a routine practice that soothes you. A calm mind is a healthy mind.
5. Take good care of your mental health throughout your life. Check in with the way you’re feeling and watch for signs of depression or other mental illness. Contact a counseling center and schedule therapy sessions if you need them.
6. Practice brain teasers. Crossword puzzles, sudoku and other brain challenging games aren’t proven methods of keeping your mind sharp, but keeping your mind active does help prevent cognitive decline, so keep solving those puzzles.
7. Learn new things whenever possible. Take cooking classes, dancing lessons or study a new language.
8. Maintain a positive attitude. There really is something to seeing the glass half full in life. Positive emotions have a beneficial effect on your ability to process information and are linked to better brain health over the long term.
9. Socialize. Social activity is good for keeping our brains sharp as well as our mental health and well being. Just make sure to surround yourself with people who make you feel good. Too many negative people in your life can do more harm than good.
10. Don’t waste time worrying about the little things. Focus your attention on things that matter. This will help keep your mindset positive and your outlook bright.
Contact Dr. Lawrence Tucker, a Orange County psychiatrist, for more information on what you can do to manage Alzheimer’s disease.