Maintaining healthy brain

Here’s something to make you think: recent studies on cognitive decline conducted by charities such as Age UK have found that there are certain precautions and lifestyle changes that we can all make to keep our brains healthy and prevent, or at least delay, the onset of conditions such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. The Charity Director of Age UK, Caroline Abrahams said, “While there’s still no cure or way to reverse dementia, this evidence shows that there are simple and effective ways to reduce our risk of developing it to begin with”.

Staying active

We already know that any healthy lifestyle should involve regular exercise, but did you know that exercise is also key to a healthy brain? Age UK’s research revealed  that physical exercise – aerobic, resistance or balance – is the most effective way of staving off cognitive decline in healthy older individuals and further reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Doctor’s orders are that exercise should be taken three to five times a week and should last between 30 minutes to an hour to be most effective. So that ‘be more active’ New Year’s resolution rewards twofold. But it’s not just a case of being physically active: mental agility is also key, so socialising, talking, going to the theatre, doing Sudoku and crosswords and listening to music are all key to a healthy brain.

Photo: Flickr, Off Beat Mum
Photo: Flickr, Off Beat Mum

Healthy lifestyle

Quitting the cigarettes and limiting alcohol consumption are also key for a healthy mind, nothing new there, but with recent estimates stating that there are 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia and dementia affecting one in three people over the age of 65, it’s worthwhile trying to kick the habit. Age UK found that “there are significantly more new cases of Alzheimerís among current smokers compared with those who have never smoked.” It was also found that heavy drinking is linked to dementia as it results in the loss of brain tissue, particularly in areas of the brain responsible for processing and memory and also interpreting visual information. Interestingly, moderate levels of alcohol were found to protect brain tissue through increasing good cholesterol and lowering bad cholesterol.

Brain healthy diet 

Managing your weight is essential to a healthy lifestyle and it’s no different for a healthy brain, so ditching the fried foods is key. The Alzheimer’s Association lists some of the ‘brain foods’ which research suggests could contribute to a healthy brain. It is not known in what levels these foodstuffs need to be consumed to have a dramatic impact in preventing cognitive decline, but a study of elderly women showed that those who ate the most green, leafy vegetables had a mental function that was one-two years younger than those in the group who consumed limited amounts of these vegetables. A little food for thought.

So the recipe for brain health consists of dark-skinned fruits and vegetables which have the highest levels of naturally occurring antioxidant levels. The list includes kale, spinach, brussels sprouts, broccoli, beets, red bell pepper, onion, corn and aubergine. Fruits which contain high antioxidant levels such as prunes, raisins, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, plums, oranges, red grapes and cherries are also on the menu. And if that wasn’t enough, you can also tuck into cold water fish such as halibut, mackerel, salmon, trout and tuna which contain beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. And we mustn’t forget the nuts, with almonds, pecans and walnuts being a good source of vitamin E.


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January 2022
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The University of East Anglia’s official student newspaper. Concrete is in print and online.

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