As we get older, we often pay attention to keeping our bodies healthy but give less thought to our mind. Failing to look after our brain could have disastrous consequences, and even reduce our life-span.
The good news is that it's relatively simple to keep our mind healthy. Follow these five tips and your mind will still be fighting fit when you receive a telegram from the Queen!
#1:Take Physical Exercise
Physical exercise benefits the body but it can also be very beneficial for your mind too. Scientists have discovered that people who exercise regularly have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer's and are less likely to experience an age-related decline in mental function.
It's believed that the increase in blood flow which occurs during exercise is the reason why it has such a positive effect. This increase can also help to counteract the reduction in neural connections and re-establish a network.
You can start by taking walks, then get into jogging or taking a gym class. Browse through the current Big W catalogue with special offers on running shoes and gym leggings so that you have the right attire for your new fitness regime. Page 17 of the catalogue has cute Knit Sock Fit runners for just $39.
#2: Keep Your Brain Active
Just like our bodies, brains need exercise to stay in shape. Research has shown that using the brain builds up neural connections, guarding against the loss of function in old age.
You don't need to do any special exercises to stay mentally sharp. Everyday mental challenges are more than enough to keep the brain active.
For example, if you like watching football and betting, calculating the latest Champions League odds and payouts will get the grey matter ticking over. Alternatively, you could fill in the sudoku puzzle in the newspaper, play chess or learn a new skill.
One quirky way to challenge your brain is to try using your opposite hand for tasks. This is surprisingly difficult and will get those neurons firing up in all directions!
#3: Avoid Stress and Sleep Well
Stress can cause all types of problems for the mind and body, and too much can induce mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. Stress makes it difficult for the brain to function, and reduces the ability to indulge in other healthy activities such as exercise and mental challenges. Stress can also exacerbate mental decline or cause diseases such as Alzheimer's to progress more quickly.
Set aside enough time for sleep and you'll see an improvement in your stress levels. This should be in a block of 7-8 hours at once, and not cat-napping for 2-3 hours at a time.
#4: Eat a Healthy Diet
There is a strong interdependence between the mind and body, and what you eat can affect the health of your brain. There are many foods which are known to carry nutrients which are especially beneficial for your brain, and these can help to preserve good health.
Consider increasing your intake of fish, whole grains, olive oil, onions, avocado, nuts and fruit/veg. Following a Mediterranean-style diet will benefit your brain, and deliver maximum nutrients while still tasting delicious too!
#5: Strengthen Social Connections
You may not realise it, but those chats with your friends are helping to protect the future health of your brain. Numerous studies have shown that having strong social ties reduces the risk of developing dementia. These social connections can also be built at work. Employers that create a conducive environment for socialising, are implicitly adding to the wellbeing of their employees.
Everyone has their own preferred degree of socialising, so it's important to maintain what's right for you. However, having a strong social network of people that you love and trust will help to lower blood pressure, extend your lifespan and keep your brain working well during your twilight years.