Many activities can potentially reduce the risk of early memory loss later in life. The Anti-AgingGames.com science team reviewed over 17,000 medical studies to create this list of best lifestyle changes that can keep your brain fit and memory strong. You may share this information with others as long as it is copied in its entirety.Click here for the video version of the tips (recently selected as an Editor's Pick on TEDxTalks)Anti-AgingGames.com features fun and easy memory, focus, and relaxation games designed by Nolan Bushnell, the Founder of Atari, and a team of expert neurobehavioral scientists. Anti-AgingGames.com is the only brain stimulation site optimized for cognitively healthy people over the age of 35.
1. Move it!: Aerobic exercise is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of early memory loss. The Canadian Study of Health and Aging found that brisk walking 30 minutes a day five times a week is linked to 33 per cent less Alzheimer's and 30 per cent fewer strokes. And vigorous aerobic exercise is even better and is associated with Alzheimer's rates by 50 per cent. One reason for this is that fast walking increases the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain, re-energizing it with nutrients and washing away waste by-products. If you can't walk briskly, ask your doctor what aerobic activity is suitable for you and how best to stretch before and after exercising.
2. Teach your brain new tricks: Your brain loves novelty and variety. Keep your brain stimulated through mentally engaging activities because learning helps build new neural connections, even in adults. Sites like Anti-AgingGames.com feature brain stimulation games and there are many things offline that you can do to engage your brain: play chess or bridge, learn a new instrument or language or complicated dance. You don't even have to be good at the activity. The best learning activities for your brain are mentally engaging, interactive, enjoyable, and new for you. Make lifelong learning and brain stimulation a priority in your life starting today.
3. Avoid poisons: Smoking even social smoking should be avoided. If the damage smoking can cause your lungs isn't enough of a reason to quit, then consider the impact it can have on your brain. Researchers at Kaiser Permanente found that heavy smoking in mid-life may double the risk of dementia later in life. And a study from the Netherlands showed that tobacco use in mid-life was associated with more twice as much cognitive decline more than two decades later. Other types of poisons to avoid are lead and toxic chemicals in products you use regularly. CosmeticsDatabase.com is a free website that allows you to look up safety ratings for shampoos, soaps, sunscreens, cleaning supplies, and makeup so that you can switch to safer brands.
4. Eat more colourfully: The diet that has been most strongly connected to the best health benefits is the Mediterranean Diet. Researchers determined that people who followed the Mediterranean Diet most closely were 36% less likely to have stroke-related brain damage and 28% less mild cognitive impairment compared to those who followed the diet least closely. Even those who only moderately followed the diet had a 21% lower risk of brain damage and 17% less mild cognitive impairment, compared with the lowest group. The Lyon Heart Health Study concluded that after an average of 46 months on the Mediterranean diet, people who followed the diet had a 50-70% lower risk of recurrent heart disease. The Mediterranean Diet is a colourful diet and involves eating 7-10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, eating whole grains instead of white bread, using herbs instead of salt, and using extra virgin olive oil instead of butter. Vegetables and fruits that are dark green (spinach, broccoli, asparagus, and collard greens), orange (squash, yams), dark blue or red (blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries) are particularly good for you. If you eat dairy, choose low-fat or skim varieties. Beans, peas, lentils, and sunflower seeds are good sources of folate, which is essential to make and repair DNA. Fish is one of the best foods to eat and is recommended twice a week. Salmon is preferred because it has a lot of Omega-3s and wild salmon is recommended because many farmed salmon are said to contain PCBs, a type of toxin. Sardines are also recommended and are a good source of calcium. A number of studies have shown that regularly eating a small handful of raw nuts (especially walnuts and almonds) may have protective properties against cardiovascular diseases. Try to get plain nuts, not roasted or salted or ones with hydrogenated oils. Also, remember that nuts are high in calories so you'll need to decrease the same number of calories by cutting down on fat and sugar from other parts of your diet. Remember to check with your doctor before you change your diet since some foods can cause irritation for some medical conditions and may even interfere with certain medicines.
5. Kick back and relax: Too much stress can actually rewire the brain, impairing memory and decision making capabilities, increasing anxiety and reducing the ability to regulate mood. That's because chronic stress causes an increase of certain brain chemicals and hormones, like cortisol, that in large quantities can negatively affect parts of the brain that are essential to memory. Find something you enjoy that helps you relax, like a hobby, reading a book or doing yoga. The brain is resilient if you give it a chance! Sleeping enough is also important. Researchers found that people who sleep less than six hours per night or more than nine hours per night tend to have lower cognitive scores than people who slept between 7.5-8 hours per night.
6. Be social: Spending time with friends and family is far more important for your mental health than most people realize. A Harvard University study discovered that people with five or more regular social ties had half the risk of cognitive decline than those with no social ties. Another study found that even a ten-minute social interaction resulted in improved cognitive performance. The quality of the social ties appears to matter, so make sure you spend time with people you genuinely like.
7. Find life's purpose: Having a purpose in life is even more important than a reason to get out of bed in the morning. It's also good for your brain. Researchers at Rush University Medical Center found that people who scored high on a life purpose test were 2.4 times less likely to develop Alzheimer's than those with the lowest scores. It's never too late to find something that you truly care about, start a project or volunteer for something that is meaningful for you.
8. Partner with your doctor: Consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diet or exercise regime because changes, including supplements and foods, may interfere with your medicines or aggravate certain conditions. For example, one study suggested that eating broccoli and cauliflower twice per week was linked to at least 20% less cancer (for some types of cancer) but both broccoli and cauliflower may not be good for some people with thyroid problems. It's not enough to have a nice doctor or one who has been your doctor for a long time. A good doctor is proactive, understands the role of nutrition, stretching, exercise, and doesn't rely on symptom-covering medicine and surgery only. Find a doctor who really understands preventative medicine, never skip your annual checkup, and always check in before making changes to your diet, exercise, or lifestyle. Your doctor can also help you sort through the numerous health fads and studies that grab the media's attention every month, and figure out which ones will actually benefit your health.
9. Don't forget to floss: Daily flossing and brushing aren't just critical for healthy teeth and gums. They also might help keep your brain healthy. That's because your teeth can be a major source of inflammation as well as infection, both of which may cause damage in the brain, heart, and other parts of the body. Some scientists believe that the inflammation caused by gum disease might increase the risk of Alzheimer's.
10. Protect your head: Some studies have linked moderate-to-severe head trauma to two to four times the risk of Alzheimer's. Protect your head and avoid activities that pose a high risk of brain injury, like texting while driving which has been found to increase the chance of a car crash by 23 times. Five major studies have shown that bicycle helmets reduce the risk of brain injury by as much as 88 per cent. Don't panic if you've already hit your head, there are a number of factors including what area was hit and how long you were unconscious for but take extra care to protect your head from now on.
11. Positive attitude matters! The Nun Study tracked 678 nuns over the course of their lives and found that nuns who described their lives with more positive emotion words not only lived longer but also were healthier. There seemed to even be a neuroprotective effect that surprised scientists and will warrant further research. You can practice optimism and break the habits of cynicism or ungratefulness. Look for the opportunity or lesson in each challenge and practice random acts of kindness. One study showed that people who think of five reasons to be grateful before bed daily reported feeling happier after just 21 days.
12. Decide to live better right now: Just reading the tips isn't enough; to potentially improve your health and life you'll need to take action. Program into your phone, computer, or calendar a monthly reminder that says, "Live Better". Every month you see the reminder, ask yourself what incremental change you can make to live better. Perhaps you need to walk more, see friends more often, relax more, or eat better. Continuous improvement over time is a great way to improve your long-term since you are regularly inviting yourself to take an honest look at yourself and see what areas can be improved. For more tips and to play brain stimulation games, please visit: www.Anti-AgingGames.com