Eight Ways to Keep Your Brain Young and Healthy
Written By: Kayla Baron, ATC
I guess you could say our brains are pretty important- they are the headquarters that control bodily function, memory, and process a multitude of stimulus. Just as important as having a brain, is knowing how to take care of it. There are ways to “exercise your brain” which can reduce the risk of diseases like Dementia, or Alzheimer’s and improve your thinking capabilities. The overall benefits can also keep your brain sharp and active well into the later years of life. Let’s see what you can start doing today to get those neurons sparking!
Mix it up Monotony is not only boring, but the lack of additional stimulus allows our brains to remain in “cruise control.” There are many ways you can switch up your daily routine that will challenge your brain. Try taking a new route to work, with the GPS on standby in case you take a few too many wrong turns. You can also try a new activity, like game night, at home instead of your usual evening routine.
Learn something new I’m not suggesting that you return to the classroom, necessarily, but taking up a new hobby or interest in your free time will help keep your brain sharp. Anything from online video tutorials to booking classes offered through local event planners, it is never too late to add to your skill set.
Get social It’s tempting after a long day at work to cancel the dinner plans you regrettably made last week but think twice before trying to get out of them. Recent studies have shown that socializing can protect against the effects of dementia.1 Go ahead a get a group together for an evening event, and your brain may thank you later!
Sweat to stay smart You’ve heard it before, but exercise has many benefits from helping manage blood pressure to reducing risk of heart disease and aiding in weight management. These are but a toe-dip into the pool of exercise-related benefits. Exercise can also benefit our brain! There have been several studies that have shown that those who exercise regularly have greater volume in portions of their brain and show improved cognitive function.2 Not motivated to start flexing that brain on your own? Try recruiting a friend to hold you accountable or join a local fitness class.
Clean up your diet eating foods rich in protein, fiber, and other nutrients is important for weight management and body function. Your body thrives off what you feed it, and foods with less than nutritious ingredients can have harmful effects and hinder your health goals. Try to start by cutting down on sugars, which can lead to high blood sugar and put you at risk for diabetes which is predisposing risk for dementia. Speak with a healthcare professional or your ISMP to find a diet that is right for you. Cut your vices To keep it simple, it’s best to eliminate all substance use to avoid increasing your risk of developing harmful diseases and disrupting your body and brains natural function. They can also impair judgement and lead to addiction. Alcohol can be consumed in reasonable serving sizes, but this should be discussed with your physician.
Reduce your stressors Negative stressors don’t do you, or your brain, any favors. Finding ways to deal with stress is important to keep a healthy mind. You can start by finding healthy ways to deal with your stress through outlets such as writing, discussions with a close friend or family member, counselling, or breathing exercises and meditation.
Protect your head The brain is as amazing as it is precious and that’s why it is crucial to protect its housing (our heads) as best as we can!
Wearing proper PPE while on the job or working safely to avoid unnecessary head bumps will reduce the risk of sustaining any damage. When outside of work use the same precautions. It’s better to protect your head just in case, than to regret not doing so.
To discuss alternative brain health activities, talk to your ISMP so they can help you start exercising your brain today! Further reading: 1. Valerie C. Crooks, James Lubben, Diana B. Petitti, Deborah Little, Vicki Chiu, “Social Network, Cognitive Function, and Dementia Incidence Among Elderly Women”, American Journal of Public Health 98, no. 7 (July 1, 2008): pp. 1221-1227.
2. Gomez-Pinilla F, Hillman C. The Influence of Exercise on Cognitive Abilities. Comprehensive Physiology. 2013;3(1):403-428. doi:10.1002/cphy.c110063.
Industrial Sports Medicine Professional
Kayla is an Industrial Sports Medicine Professional for InSite Health. She is a certified and licensed Athletic Trainer that graduated with her bachelor’s degree in Athletic Training from Northern Illinois University. She joined the Industrial Sports Medicine field after spending two years as an Outreach Athletic Trainer. Kayla is passionate about making a difference in the lives of our working athletes.