When was the last time you thought about your brain health? It’s something that impacts the way we eat, work, socialize and live, but we don’t think about it very often. When we prioritize brain health, we’re reducing our risk of diseases like dementia, which impacts more than 500,000 Canadians. The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, which makes up 60 to 80 per cent of all dementia cases.
Though there is no way to guarantee you will never get dementia, there are steps you can start taking today to reduce your risk factors. In fact, many of the things we can do to boost brain health can also help improve other aspects of our overall health. In honour of World Alzheimer’s Month, try out some of these expert tips from UHN.
Break your routine
Do you have a normal route you take to work? Try switching it up! Sometimes we’re so used to our routines that we go through the day barely remembering what we did. Challenge your brain to think in new ways by doing small things to switch up your day. Here are some examples:
- Brush your teeth or your hair with your non-dominant hand
- Read a new book, maybe one outside your usual genre
- Try out a new form of exercise or activity
Find a workout buddy
Being both physically and socially active are amazing ways to keep your brain healthy. Beyond being a great way to boost your mood, physical activity helps reduce our risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes – all things that are risk factors for dementia. And social connection can reduce stress and decrease your risk of depression and social isolation.
So why not combine the two?
Find someone to be your regular workout buddy to keep yourself accountable. Connect with a friend for a regular walk or jog, join a recreational sports league, or try out a new fitness class.
Play memory games
Almost 40 per cent of adults will experience some type of memory loss after the age of 65. Though most memory loss isn’t severe enough to hinder day-to-day life, it still has an impact. Try out some of these easy brain exercises to help improve or maintain memory.
- Brain teasers
- Word and number games
- Like crosswords, word searches, Sudoku and more
- Classic memorizing
- Try reading an article over a couple of times and test out how much you can remember. You can also spend a couple minutes observing everything in one room, walk out of that room and see how many objects you can remember.
Eat the Mediterranean way
If you’ve looked into ways to eat healthier, chances are you’ve come across the Mediterranean diet – something that has been shown to lower blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar. People following this style of eating consume more plant-based foods, leafy greens, extra virgin olive oil, whole grains, nuts and moderate amounts of lean protein, like fish. They also limit processed foods, red meat and sweets. A nutritious diet like this one can help maintain brain function and reduce risk factors for dementia like diabetes, high alcohol consumption and obesity.
Check if you’re eating the Mediterranean way with this fun quiz from UHN’s Cardiac College. There are also healthy recipes you can try.
Learn a new skill
Exercising your brain has been shown to reduce your risk of dementia. One great, fun way to do that? Learn a new skill! Challenge your brain by trying out a new hobby like painting, learning a musical instrument, or picking up a new language. You could even try learning something with a friend or family member – that way you not only have an accountability buddy, but you’re being social too.
Want more information about dementia? Check out these resources from UHN.