For obvious reasons, brain health is one of the most searched topics online for older adults. Aren’t we all curious about keeping our brains in shape, about making sure we stay cognizant, and about learning all we can about dementia? While we know the risk of dementia increases as we age, it’s not a given that you’ll experience the harshest events, that you’re for sure going to succumb to not knowing who, what, or when.
Until recently, I felt dementia was an inevitable part of aging. The minute I’d notice my friends struggling to remember or find that missing word or just once myself forgot the best route to the grocery store, I was sure the downhill trajectory was in motion. Not so.
I’ve learned more about some brain health myths that you might find interesting too.
First myth: Mental games will keep your brain healthy.
Every morning I play Sudoku and attempt to complete the day’s crossword. While those games are fun, there’s no scientific evidence that shows they slow or prevent dementia. Other activities like learning a new skill or volunteering can be just as stimulating and will help you stay sharp. Evidently, in order to keep your brain functioning at its best, the task or event must be challenging, like learning a new language or doing something that requires more mental effort than some of the games we enjoy but that don’t require a exploration of our solution or problem-solving skills.
Second myth: The marketers certainly want us to think that brain-boosting supplements are the only way to stay sharp.
Do you have friends who sit down to any and every meal and pull out their surprisingly large plastic tumbler of vitamins, omega-3s, and other products? They feel good that they’re providing something not available in the food we consume. There are no medical studies that show these supplements target the brain and are able to keep us mentally keen. Being active and maintaining a well-balanced diet are the best ways forward. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables and fish and other lean protein benefits our brains. It’s a good idea to save our money on pills that are specifically developed to keep dementia away. There’s no hard data they work!
Third myth: Your mood plays little or no role in the health of your brain.
Studies have shown, in fact, that our well-being – whether we’re predominantly optimistic or pessimistic – and how we deal with life’s circumstances directly impact our thinking and reasoning. For instance, individuals in a positive mood state can recall more words than those in a negative mood state. Also, our positive mental outlook and physical health benefits such as lower blood pressure, less heart disease, and healthier blood sugar levels all directly impact the brain’s functioning.
While there is no guarantee about whether you’ll experience dementia or, if you do, how severe it will be, it’s good to stay current with the literature than can debunk some of the myths we’ve acquired over the years.
What do you do to keep your brain healthy?