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Your Brain Needs Proper Diet and Exercise Too

Summary: Researchers explore how diet, exercise, and social engagement can help stave off cognitive decline and improve overall brain health.

Font: university of kentucky

Healthy brain aging is a concern for all of us. June is recognized as Brain and Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. It’s normal to struggle with little things, like remembering names, and we all experience some slowing of thought processes with advancing age, but everyone hopes to avoid serious cognitive decline.

Some cognitive difficulties, such as Alzheimer’s disease, have underlying pathological causes that we are still working to understand. However, we know that the brain can also lose its function simply because of poor physical, mental, and social health. Many of the causes of cognitive decline can be prevented.

Just as we create exercise regimens for the body, we must create a routine for brain health.

As a general rule, what’s good for heart health is good for brain health. Exercising regularly, eating well, and maintaining a healthy weight promote a healthy brain.

People of all ages, especially older people, benefit from getting out of the house, participating in learning activities, and having an active social life. It’s important to commit to a program that encourages all of these healthy activities for the aging brain.

Summer, in many ways, is an ideal time to establish a routine for healthy brain aging. The warm climate offers the opportunity for physical exercise through gardening and hiking. Many community organizations offer summer classes in dance, photography, art, music, and other hobbies.

Summer is also the season for farmers markets and fresh produce. Fresh fruits and vegetables contain compounds called plant polyphenols. These compounds, which help plants fight disease, have been observed in animal models to extend lifespan by promoting overall cellular health. Blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, and red wine are good sources of polyphenols.

Anyone interested in healthy brain aging can also practice “neurobics.” These “brain aerobics” are activities that can be included in the daily schedule on a whim. Examples include taking a different route home, shopping at a different grocery store, or purposefully driving or walking through an unfamiliar neighborhood. These simple activities activate the problem-solving areas of the brain as the person navigates uncharted territory.

See also

This shows a salad.
Fresh fruits and vegetables contain compounds called plant polyphenols. The image is in the public domain

Social engagement is key for older people, who may find their social circle shrinking as friends and family move, develop serious illnesses or die.

Senior centers offer great resources for social activities. Something as simple as meeting up with others for a regular card game can help keep your brain’s cognitive functions sharp. For some seniors, moving to a senior living community is ideal as it provides increased opportunities for structured activities and socializing with peers.

Through socializing, hobbies, lifelong learning, healthy eating, physical activity, and challenging your brain daily, most people have the ability to achieve healthy brain aging.

I’ve seen some patients reverse mild cognitive impairment simply by adopting a healthier lifestyle, so it’s never too late to promote healthy brain aging.

About this diet and exercise research news

Author: greg jicha
Font: university of kentucky
Contact: Greg Jicha – University of Kentucky
Image: The image is in the public domain.

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