9 Steps for a Healthy Brain
The prevalence of dementia in Australia is on the rise, meaning it’s never been more important to future-proof your brain.
By 2050, it’s estimated that almost one million Australians will be affected by dementia. Professor Kaarin Anstey, Senior Principal Research Scientist at Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) says this sobering statistic is a stark reminder that we all need to be proactive about brain health.
“Waiting until your 60s and thinking, ‘I don’t want to get dementia, I’d better look at my risk factors’ isn’t the best plan,” says Professor Anstey.
“While it’s not possible to cure or prevent dementia completely, increasing or maintaining physical, social and intellectual activities may help delay its onset.”
Here Professor Anstey details nine key recommendations to support brain health.
What is Dementia?
“Dementia is an umbrella term that describes conditions that cause neurocognitive disorders,” says Professor Anstey. “These are progressive conditions that worsen and lead to multiple impairments in memory and thinking, ultimately leading to severe disability.”
1. Get physical
“A sedentary lifestyle is associated with increased risk of dementia, while aerobic and strength training activities have been shown to improve cognition,” says Professor Anstey. For adults under 65, the Australian Department of Health recommends 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous intensity physical activity per week. For over 65s, the recommendation is to be physically active for at least 30 minutes per day. Speak to your physician about what activities are appropriate for you.
2. Maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight can potentially affect more than just your waist line. “In mid-life (40-60s) years, being overweight increases the risk of dementia in late-life,” advises Professor Anstey. “The simple message is to avoid processed food and to eat a healthy diet with lots of green leafy vegetables and fruit as well two or more serves of fish per week.”
3. Stop smoking
Professor Anstey identifies another reason to quit by noting that “smokers have an 80% increased risk of developing dementia.”
4. Watch blood pressure
The link between blood pressure and heart health is well documented, and Professor Anstey says there’s also a connection to brain health. “Managing blood pressure is important not only to prevent stroke but also to prevent dementia.”
5.Manage chronic conditions
“Conditions such as diabetes and heart disease increase the risk of dementia,” says Professor Anstey. If you are affected or at-risk, speak to a medical professional about how to best manage these conditions through medication and lifestyle.
6. Avoid brain injuries
Sometimes accidents happen. But where possible, it’s important to protect your head from injury. “Head injuries may increase the risk of dementia in later life,” Professor Anstey notes. “Avoiding head injury throughout your life, including through sports, is another way to minimize your risk of dementia.”
7. Be socially engaged
Socialising is beneficial not only for mental and emotional wellness but also for brain health. “Staying connected with family, friends and the community is important to keep the brain engaged and socially active,” says Professor Anstey.
8. Stay mentally alert
Just as your body needs exercise to be physically healthy, your brain needs a mental workout to stay in shape. “Regardless of your age, it’s important to be doing things that make you think and learn,” says Professor Anstey. Mentally stimulating activities range from reading and writing, formal education courses or even just doing crosswords and puzzles.
9. Sleep well
Your brain needs consistent and regular rest in order to function properly. To encourage a good night’s sleep, Professor Anstey suggests adjusting your evening routine. “Try eating a lighter meal at dinner, avoid looking at bright screens from smartphones and computers before bed, and avoid coffee, tea and alcohol in the evening.”
Ageing Well events
You’re invited to NeuRA’s Ageing Well For Life Seminar Series in Sydney on 19 June and Melbourne on 20 June 2018. All seminars will go live nationally online at 7pm Thursday, 21 June 2018. To book tickets, visit: https://www.neura.edu.au/ageingwell
Get Your Free Ageing Well Kit
For more advice on reducing the risk of dementia, order your free Ageing Well Kit from NeuRA (neura.edu.au). The kit includes the latest research and recommendations in the field of dementia. Complete the online form to place your order.