Kim GregoryComment

How to keep your brain sharp

Kim GregoryComment
How to keep your brain sharp

Suffering sudden memory lapses? Follow these NINE TIPS on how to keep your mind nimble…

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Senior moments aren’t by any means reserved for older people. We all have times when our brain fails us — like when we walk into a room and forget why, or put something ‘in a safe place’ and can’t find it. But whatever your age, medical experts say there are ways you can improve your mental acuity and stave off dementia in later life.


Keep learning

Continued education will keep you mentally active and help your memory remain strong. Neurologists say that mental exercise that challenges your brain can cut your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by up to 70 per cent. 

Try pursuing a new hobby, learning a new skill or volunteering for a project that involves doing something you wouldn’t normally do.


If you don’t need to use your brain to remember something, like regular routines, don’t! Save that brain power for learning new things which will improve your memory. Use calendars, lists and address books to keep routine information accessible to save up your memory.


Eat well
Following a healthy diet means you’re less likely to damage your arteries, and this will protect your brain as well as your heart.

Vascular neurologist Dr Philip Gorelick says: ‘Over time the arteries carrying blood to the brain may narrow or become damaged, which can lead to dementia.’ 

According to Dr Valter Longo, author of The Longevity Diet: ‘Consuming high levels of saturated or trans fatty acids increases the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.’ 

He suggests increasing your intake of olive oil, nuts and veg.


Believe in yourself

It’s scientifically proven that if you believe in your own abilities, your brain will work better. Middle-aged and older learners perform worse on memory tasks when presented with negative stereotypes about ageing and memory, and better when they’re exposed to positive messages. 

Believe you can improve your memory — and you will!


Stick with a friend or partner

Being in a loving relationship could reduce the risk of developing dementia by up to 60 per cent, according to research from London Metropolitan University. 

Study leader Professor Eef Hogervorst says: ‘We did not find that social isolation increased the risk but that feeling lonely did by 44 per cent.’

Surround yourself with a great social network and it’ll help your brain. It’ll be enjoyable, too!


Keep physically active

The brain is an organ and, like your heart and lungs, it needs exercise to keep functioning well. 

Dr Tim Shakespeare of the Alzheimer’s Society says: ‘Regular physical activity is considered a good way to reduce your risk of dementia.’

And new research suggests that exercise can ward off further memory loss in people already suffering from dementia. 

The study’s senior author Dr Dorina Cadar says: ‘This gives us hope that ensuring a reasonable level of physical activity could bring extra years of cognitive spark to those with dementia.’

Even short, regular walks can make all the difference to your brain power.


Look after your hearing

Loss of hearing may contribute to the early onset of dementia, according to research. 

Thomas Behrens, head of audiology at hearing aid company Oticon, says: ‘A recent study on dementia prevention concluded that mid-life hearing loss is the most common modifiable risk factor contributable to dementia. 

‘Hearing loss not only affects the ability to hear sound, it also puts a strain on the brain as it tries to interpret meaning in words, organise sounds, orient sound direction and refocus, especially in noisy environments.’

Protect your ears in noisy places and wear a hearing aid if you are struggling to hear.


Don’t forget to snooze!

A good night’s rest is the best defence against dementia, say Alzheimer’s researchers. 

Authors of The Alzheimer’s Solution, Dr Dean Sherzai and Dr Ayesha Sherzai, say: ‘Our clinic experience has shown us again and again that good quality sleep, night after night, is critical to cognitive function and quality of life as you get older. 

‘People who don’t get enough sleep experience atrophy in important memory centres like the hippocampus.’

If possible, aim for seven to eight hours of sleep every night.


Play games

Finally, keeping your brain active doesn’t have to be all hard work. 

‘Reading, solving puzzles and playing computer games have all been shown to improve cognition and help prevent or delay dementias,’ says Dr Longo.

So dust off those board games and have fun — it’s doctor’s orders!


Edited by Kim Gregory