We’re going to tackle the five pillars of brain health and look at how each of these lifestyle factors can help you to naturally reduce your risk of dementia as well as improve your brain health.
The five pillars of brain health
Each of these pillars plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy brain and reducing the risk of dementia. Let's dive into each one and discover the practical tips and advice that will empower you to take control of your brain health.
Brain health pillar one: Exercise
You might associate exercise with physical fitness, but did you know it also nurtures your brain?
When you engage in regular physical activity, you're not only strengthening your muscles but also giving your brain a boost. Exercise increases blood flow and oxygen delivery to the brain, promoting neuroplasticity and the formation of new connections.
So, what exercises should you incorporate into your routine?
Best practice is to aim for a diverse mix.
Aerobic exercises like brisk walking or swimming are top-notch for getting your heart pumping and enhancing brain function. Lifting weights or using resistance bands are strength training exercises that help preserve cognitive abilities.
While these two forms often encompass the majority of exercise suggestions, remember balance and coordination exercises like yoga or tai chi also have the potential to improve stability and cognitive flexibility.
Joining exercise classes or groups can provide the added benefit of social support, making your workout sessions even more enjoyable.
If you’re not interested in any formal types of exercise, we’ve got you covered!
Physical activity works just as well. This includes walking your dog, working in the garden and cleaning the house.
Brain health pillar two: Diet
You are what you eat, and that includes your brain!
Nutrition plays a pivotal role in brain health, and adopting a balanced diet can be a powerful tool in preventing dementia.
Consuming a variety of fruits and vegetables provides essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support brain function. Additionally, incorporating omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts can enhance cognitive performance and reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
On the other hand, processed and sugary foods can have a detrimental impact on brain health. Limiting your intake of these items is essential.
Where possible, opt for whole, unprocessed foods instead.
You can nourish your body and mind by planning and preparing brain-healthy meals.
Last obvious but vital point: Remember to stay hydrated throughout the day, as dehydration can affect cognitive function.
Read more about the best diet for your gut health and brain here.
Watch this video to learn more about nutrition and brain health
Brain health pillar three: Sleep
Ah, the joys of a good night's sleep!
Not only does it leave you feeling refreshed and energised, but it also contributes to your brain health. Quality sleep is vital for cognitive function, and sleep disturbances have been linked to an increased risk of dementia.
If you struggle with sleep quality, consider making some adjustments.
A few foundational components that you always first need in place are:
- Creating a sleep-friendly environment by keeping your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet.
- Engaging in relaxation techniques before bed, such as deep breathing or listening to calming music.
- Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, even on weekends, regulates your body's internal clock.
- Limiting caffeine consumption and avoiding electronic devices before bedtime.
- Engaging in regular physical activity can also promote better sleep.
If sleep disorders persist, don't hesitate to seek professional help.
Ever wondered what would happen to your brain if you just didn’t sleep? Find out here!
Brain health pillar four: Mood and social
Your mental and emotional well-being significantly impacts your brain health. Chronic stress, in particular, has been linked to an increased risk of dementia. Therefore, managing stress and fostering a positive mood is essential for dementia prevention.
Engaging in activities that promote mental well-being can work wonders for your brain. Mindfulness and meditation practices help calm the mind and reduce stress levels.
Pursuing hobbies and interests that bring you joy stimulates your brain and enhances cognitive function. Don't underestimate the power of social connections and support.
Spending time with friends and family, sharing experiences, and seeking emotional support are all valuable components of maintaining a positive mood.
Developing a personalised routine to boost your mood can make a significant difference in your overall well-being. Set aside time for self-care activities that bring you happiness and relaxation. Practice gratitude and positive affirmations to shift your mindset towards optimism. Remember to take breaks and find joy in the little moments of everyday life.
Yes, feeling stressed can be awful.
But what if we told you that it might actually also be good for you,
if you approach it in the right way?
Learn more about how to do this in our “Harnessing the Power of Stress” series!
Humans are social beings, and our brain health thrives on social engagement.
Maintaining an active social life not only brings joy but also reduces the risk of dementia. Social connections have been shown to enhance cognitive function and protect against cognitive decline.
Explore various strategies that suit your interests and preferences to nurture your social life. Participate in community events, join groups or clubs related to your hobbies, or volunteer for causes close to your heart.
Staying connected with friends and family, whether through regular phone calls, video chats, or face-to-face interactions, can provide a sense of belonging and contribute to your brain health.
Make your social interactions meaningful and enjoyable by practising active listening and fostering empathy. Engage in stimulating conversations and activities that challenge your mind. Embrace new social opportunities and challenges that push you out of your comfort zone. Remember, a vibrant social life is a recipe for a healthy brain!
Brain health pillar five: Mental stimulation
You've probably heard the saying, "Use it or lose it," and it holds true when it comes to your brain.
Mental stimulation and cognitive engagement are like fuel for your brain, keeping it sharp and agile throughout your life. Lifelong learning and intellectual activities have been found to help protect against cognitive decline and may reduce the risk of dementia.
So, how can you keep your mind active?
Here are a few quick and easy wins:
- Start by reading books
- Explore new subjects and stay curious.
- Engage in brain-training games and puzzles that challenge your cognitive abilities.
- Embrace creative activities like painting, writing, or playing a musical instrument to stimulate different areas of your brain.
Incorporating mental stimulation into your daily routine is key.
Challenge yourself with new tasks and hobbies that require mental effort. Seek intellectual stimulation through online courses, workshops, or attending lectures. Explore new environments, stimulate your senses, and embrace novel experiences.
Your brain will thank you!
Watch this TEDx talk for more information:
How you live each day is how you live your life
Reducing your risk for dementia and cognitive decline isn’t a once-off attempt.
It is a lifestyle that you adopt and a journey that you embark upon.
By adopting these practical tips and advice, incorporating the five pillars of brain health into your lifestyle, and making small changes one step at a time, you're actively taking charge of your brain's destiny.
Remember, there is always time to start.
Our Five Lives app is a great place to get going.