Take care of your brain and it will take care of you, writes Elisabeth King.
1. Use it or lose it
It’s a cliché because it’s true. Keeping your brain active is crucial. It’s not just a question of keeping up with things, either. There’s a physical reason, too. The more you use your brain — reading, drawing, writing or exploring new interests and hobbles—the more new connections are generated between nerve cells. This, in turn, leads to the generation of new brain cells.
2. Check your cholesterol
High doses of LDL (low density lipo-protein), dubbed “bad” cholesterol, increase the likelihood of mental levels of HDL (high density lipo-protein), the so-called “good” cholesterol.
3. Watch your blood pressure
Most people know the mantra—high blood pressure is linked to heart attack, heart failure, kidney disease and stroke. It’s estimated one in three adults suffer from high blood pressure, which also increases the risk of dementia. Four ways to keep your blood pressure a constant 120/80 include: cut back on salt; eat a diet high in fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and low-fat dairy foods; drink less alcohol; and exercise more.
4. B Smart
Increase your intake of B vitamins — folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12. High homocysteine (an amino acid in the blood) levels have been linked to dementia and B vitamins help lower them. One B complex tablet a day should do the trick.
5. Cut bock your kilojoule intake
A reduced-kilojoule diet not only helps you lose weight, it lowers the risk of mental slide as you age.
6. Get physical
When your blood starts pumping from exertion, it increases the number of blood vessels that flow to the area of the brain linked to thought processes. More nerve cells are generated, too.
7. Drink less
Government recommendations of only two drinks a day for men are worth heeding for your brain’s sake. The belief that alcohol can destroy brain cells has been around for years. It’s not true —alcohol simply reduces communications between neurons and causes the impairment associated with being drunk, but it does not kill off entire cells. However, excessive drinking can lead to brain shrinkage in the cortex of the frontal lobe—believed to be the centre of higher intellectual functions — especially in men. Additional shrinkage in the deeper areas of the brain have also been linked with memory loss.
8. Quit smoking
A Harvard University study has found smokers are twice as likely to suffer from dementia as non-smokers.
9. Wear protective headgear
Even a moderate head injury early in life increases the risk of cognitive damage. Always wear a helmet when riding a bike or motorcycle. And don’t get involved in violence.
10. Make friends
The loner might be an icon in movies and novels but the man who depends solely on himself isn’t a good role model. An international study revealed men with a good network of friends and colleagues has a 42 per cent less chance of developing mental decline than those with limited social interaction.