Daily Habits That Affect Brain Health

Brain Health Awareness Week is March 15-21, and middle-aged and older adults may be interested in learning more about what daily habits contribute to good cognitive health as we age.  Diet and exercise play an important role in brain health but there are also other factors that help seniors stay sharp including social interaction, proper sleep, stress management and finding meaningful ways to contribute to one’s community. 

According to a recent AARP Staying Sharp article, there are many lifestyle choices that people overlook as they relate to brain health.  Yes, it’s important to move often and get at least 30 minutes of moderate activity each day, but allowing stress, worry and negative thinking to take over can also be damaging to cognitive health.  A recent study, published in the journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia, found that negative rumination was associated with a greater risk for cognitive decline.  

Researchers have also discovered that older adults who constantly worry and think negatively have an increased buildup of amyloid or tau proteins, suggesting that constant stress, negativity and worry may be a risk factor for dementia.  Finding ways to manage stress with meditation, spending time in nature, exercise, listening to music, practicing yoga or escaping into a good book can help older adults cope better and halt repetitive negative thoughts. 

A healthy lifestyle includes a nutritious diet, drinking plenty of water, limiting alcohol to no more than one drink per day and stopping smoking.  These daily habits not only support physical well-being but also have a significant impact on brain health.   But without purpose and meaning, studies have found that mental health suffers. 

Recent studies have found that retired adults who volunteer regularly report fewer incidents of memory lapses, difficulty concentrating and other cognitive issues associated with aging.  Seniors who volunteer are more socially connected and experience less loneliness, better mental health and a greater sense of hopefulness.   Volunteering also helps older adults stay physically active and has been linked with a reduced risk for heart disease. 

Read more about healthy habits for cognitive well-being by following this link to the Alzheimer’s Association website.