How to keep a healthy brain throughout life
By the year 2050, it is estimated that there will be more than 16 million people living with dementia at the cost of 1.1 trillion dollars a year. The things you do now can improve your odds of retaining your memory and cognitive function later in life.
Every person’s brain will change as they age, but being proactive about brain health is one way to reduce the mental decline. What can you do now to maintain good memory and a healthy brain?
What is Memory?
Memory is a brain faculty that allows information to be stored and retrieved at will. There are two types of memory facilitated by the human brain:
Short-term memory is what medical science calls working memory. Think of the mind as having two ways of storing memory: a shelf and a closet. Short-term memory goes on the shelf so it can be retrieved quickly. It only stays on the shelf for a short time, and if you don’t pull it back up, it disappears to make room for new memories.
Long-term memory is the things one learns. A child who memorizes his or her address stores that information in the memory closet and it stays there. One can retrieve a long-term memory over and over again.
People with dementia lose their ability to create short-term memories, and they can slowly lose the ones that are stored long-term with the newest ones disappearing first. This is why people with a brain disease like Alzheimer’s might remember something from 40’s years ago but not remember a more recent event.
Memory is only one concern with dementia. People with brain conditions also have problems with:
- Motor functions
They can develop personality changes and become paranoid. Not all memory loss is dementia, though.
Different Kinds of Memory Loss
Memory loss is broken down into three categories:
- Age-related memory impairment (AMI)
- Mild cognitive impairment (MCI)
Most people experience some memory loss with age. It starts early and continues throughout their life. That is not dementia, though. Conditions like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and even brain trauma damage the structure of the organ and cause impairment that affects daily functioning.
What Can You Do to Improve Your Brain Health?
Your brain is one of the most active organs in your body. It accounts for only 2 percent of the total weight, yet, it uses almost half the calories and oxygen. It’s essential to take steps to protect this vital organ. Consider some things you might do to improve your brain health::
1. Maintain a Brain-Friendly Diet
Proper nutrition is significant for most organs, but especially the brain. Some common sense changes like increasing the number of fruits and vegetables you eat is an excellent place to start. You also want to shift your focus to:
- Plant proteins
- Unsaturated fats like olive oil
There is some evidence that reducing your glycemic load is necessary, too. The goal is to keep your insulin levels low. Following a Ketogenic diet that lowers carbohydrates and increases protein and healthy fats is one option.
Studies suggest that low vitamin D levels can be a problem, too. Include some foods rich in vitamin D in your diet and get a responsible amount of sun.
2. Pay Attention to Your Oral Health
There may also be a strong link between dementia and poor oral hygiene. Gum disease is already linked to heart disease, but recent studies indicate it can cause brain issues, as well. As gum tissue and teeth break down, they create an opening for bacteria to enter the bloodstream. That bacteria can eventually make their way to your brain and cause damage.
3. Monitor Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure can damage the vessels that can transport blood to the brain. Poor circulation leads to tissue damage and increases your risk of a stroke.
4. Stay Active
Physical exercise increases the number of tiny vessels that grow in the brain. That means more oxygenation and healthier blood flow. Studies show that activity also triggers the growth of nerve cells making the brain more plastic and adaptable to changes like aging. Something as basic as walking three times a week lowers your risk of dementia.
Being active includes exercising your brain, too. Do puzzles, learn new things and keep your mind working.
It is never too late to start taking care of your brain. Make changes now that can reduce your risk of memory loss later.