A mind is a terrible thing to waste, but it’s even worse to lose it to Alzheimer’s and dementia. And while no one can stop the hands of time, you can certainly slow them down. There are certain activities, both physical and mental, that can help preserve your brain, and not for science but for yourself. The Romans said mens sana in corpore sano, thus the first step towards a sound mind is to have a healthy body.
Exercising, even moderately, can enhance memory, mental processing speed and increase the size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain that forms new memories, even in formerly sedentary adults. That means that it’s never too late to start.
Food for thought is an expression typically used figuratively to refer to something that calls for intelligent consideration, but taking it literally may be an even smarter thing to do. Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, fish, walnuts, and flax seed are all recommended to prevent
Alzheimer’s. On the other hand, obesity and a high fat diet are related to dementia, as well as elevated levels of cholesterol and blood pressure, and diabetes.
Physical exercise benefits the brain, as we’ve seen, but you can exercise your mind as well, by learning new skills and practicing old ones. That includes playing an instrument, speaking new languages, reading, and learning in general. All of the activities that we have mentioned so far will be doubly effective if done in good company as opposed to by yourself. Socially active people experience less stress, in particular if they engage in mentally challenging endeavors with friends and relatives. Just like a poor diet, loneliness and isolation are associated with a higher dementia risk. Of course, you also need some quality ‘me-time.’ Laughing, meditating, having a glass of wine, are all linked to lower stress levels, a larger hippocampus, and a reduction of cortisol, a toxic hormone.