Five easy ways to improve your brain power
Here are five simple things you can do to support your brain health and reduce your risk of developing dementia.
The figures are staggering and there’s little awareness that more than 413,000 people in Australia live with dementia.
By 2050 that figure will rise to almost one million.
“Dementia can’t directly be prevented or cured but reducing risk is important,” Alzheimer’s Australia chief executive officer Maree McCabe says.
“Many people are not aware of the numbers of people impacted by dementia or what they can do to reduce the risk of getting dementia – it’s never too late to start.”
Look after your heart
“What is good for your heart is good for your brain,” Maree says.
“An increased risk of dementia seems to be correlated with conditions that affect the heart or blood vessels – high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and obesity.”
Look after your heart health by regularly checking your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels – your GP will recommend how often you should have a check-up. Maintaining a healthy weight can also reduce your risk of heart problems. Habits such as smoking can be damaging to your heart and brain, and increase your risk of dementia.
Challenge your brain
Exercising your brain is also important.
“Do things where you have to work to create connections in your brain. When you do something that you haven’t done before, it challenges your brain and that’s important,” Maree says.
Find something that involves learning new skills – and keep on learning. Try a new sport, learn a new language, start a course, study for a new qualification at work or take up a new hobby. Do things you enjoy.
“Being physically active increases blood flow to the brain and this stimulates growth of the brain cells and the connections between them,” Maree says.
You need to do at least 30 minutes of activity on most days to have an impact. But you don’t have to do your 30 minutes in one hit; you can break up activity into three lots of 10 minutes.
Enjoy social activity
Social activity has benefits in a range of areas, including cognitive function.
“Being socially engaged, similar to exercise and learning new things, helps the brain stay healthier which contributes to lower dementia risk – it stimulates the brain,” Maree says.
So make time to catch up with family and friends, join a social club or interest group, or volunteer in your community.
Follow a healthy diet
“We need a balanced diet to maintain brain health and function, and some foods may be more directly linked to dementia and reducing your risk,” Maree says.
The Mediterranean diet is recommended by many health organisations and the foods that boost brain health include fruit and vegetables, whole foods, lean meat, yoghurt, cheese, fish and oils, such as olive oil.
For more information, call the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500 or visit yourbrainmatters.org.au
Written by Sarah Marinos