As we get older, our health and fitness are often at the forefront of our worries. But how often do we think about our mental wellbeing? Studies have shown that a Mediterranean diet is one way to keep a healthy mind. Research also shows that eating too much meat can actually shrink brains. The researchers say that people over the age of 65 who ate more fish, vegetables, fruit, grains and olive oil had a larger brain volume than another group who didn't eat a Mediterranean diet. You can read more about the study here.
Besides diet, there are lots of ways to keep your mind in tip-top shape as you get older. Today, we'll be giving you some top tips to keep your mind sharp in your golden years.
How to Keep a Healthy Mind
1. Watch what you drink
Plenty of us enjoy a tipple. If you drink alcohol, be sure to enjoy it responsibly and in moderation. Excessive drinking can put you at higher risk of dementia.
2. Quit smoking
Like alcohol, cigarettes are a dangerous vice. The longer you smoke, the faster your brain will age. However, once you quit, your brain can start to undo the damage that has built up over the years. Therefore, there has never been a better time to quit.
3. Control high blood pressure & cholesterol
High blood pressure and high cholesterol can both increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. Both conditions are thought to contribute to the development of some types of dementia. Having healthy blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure can contribute to better cognitive function. Alongside this, your brain will benefit from you being physically active, eating nutritious foods, not smoking and maintaining a healthy weight.
4. Eat healthily
We've all heard the phrase, 'Healthy body, healthy mind.' Those who eat plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables and fatty fish are thought to have less risk of cognitive decline. Experts also advise older people to avoid saturated fats for better health in old age.
5. Exercise regularly
Regular exercise will increase blood flow to the brain, which reduces your risk of conditions like high blood pressure. There are clear links between high blood pressure and the development of dementia.
6. Stimulate your brain
Those who are less mentally active are at a higher risk of dementia. Therefore, mental stimulation is important for your brain to stay healthy. Keep your mind active through socialising often, learning new skills, playing challenging games and other hobbies that require you mind to be engaged.
Activities and Exercises
We know now that mental stimulation is important to keep a healthy mind. But how exactly can we achieve this? Below, we'll outline some useful exercises to help you keep your mind sharp.
1. Board Games and Jigsaws
Whether you dig out an old family favourite or explore a brand new game, board games and jigsaw puzzles are a great way to keep the mind active. Strategy games like chess are great for stimulating the problem-solving areas of the brain.
There is nothing quite like curling up with a good book. If you're looking for new reading material, or if you're not a fan of fiction, why not look online for articles about your favourite hobbies and interests?
3. Take Up a New Hobby
Manual activities are a great way to maintain your hand-eye coordination while boosting your brain power. Try knitting, gardening, drawing, or give video games a go!
4. Write, write, write
Writing in any form can be very helpful for a healthy mind. Whether you prefer good old-fashioned paper and pen, or you're a whiz with a keyboard, research suggests that writing improves memory and helps boost intelligence. You could keep a journal, exchange letters with friends and family, or write the next bestselling novel. The possibilities are endless!
From crosswords to sudoku, your daily paper contains a treasure trove of brain-teasers! In addition, you can find thousands more word and number puzzles online, many of which offer prizes for the correct solutions. Get solving!
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Editor's Note: This article was updated on 13 July 2020 to reflect current information.
Originally published October 2015