By the time most people reach middle age, they start to experience some changes in brain function.
Many report that it is more difficult to remember things, or that they take longer to solve problems, think of words or perform other cognitive tasks.
This is not just perception, it is part of the normal aging process. But, this does not mean that you should just sit around and wait for it to happen—make some changes starting today that will help boost your brain power and keep it strong for a long time!
A recent study from the American Journal of Epidemiology studied more than 5,000 men and women during different stages of their lives.
Three separate ages were evaluated, early midlife (average 44 years old), midlife (average 56 years old), and late midlife (average 61 years old). Four separate factors were measured: alcohol use, tobacco use, exercise and physical activity and amount of vegetables in the daily diet.
After following the subjects for nearly 20 years, researchers found that those men and women with bad habits like smoking and drinking were most affected when it came to brain function.
Those with the healthiest lifestyles, which included eating plenty of vegetables and incorporating regular physical activity, were shown to score the highest on the measures of cognitive function which were used in the study.
Research shows that those with unhealthy lifestyles have lower memory and cognitive functioning abilities than those who abstain from unhealthy habits like smoking, poor diet and lack of exercise.
Those with more bad habits (3 or more on the list) were found to have more than an 80% greater risk of having a low score on the cognitive tests. Also the longer that a person had unhealthy habits, the lower the score was.
As an interesting side note, those who used alcohol in moderation showed better memory and cognitive functioning as they aged, when compared with those who had no alcohol intake.
Moderate use was defined as 5-14 drinks per week, with one drink being a pint of beer, glass of wine or one-ounce shot of liquor.
Aging is inevitable, but there are certain things that you can control. Here are several ways that you can boost your cognitive function and keep your brain power strong as you age!
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Avoiding processed foods and chemicals by eating plenty of healthy, colourful organic fruits and vegetables can help to protect your brain function.
Choosing fruits and vegetables that are in season can help you keep your budget under control, too! Freshly harvested fruits and vegetables from the local farmers’ market are usually a good choice!
Incorporate regular exercise and physical activity. Even choosing the stairs over the elevator, or a parking spot farther from the door can help to increase your physical activity on a daily basis.
Taking a walk, or engaging in aerobic activities on a regular basis will not only boost your brain function but also help to control weight and prevent other chronic health conditions. Even small amounts of physical activity can help!
Enjoy alcohol responsibly. Although studies have shown that large amounts of alcohol can have adverse health effects, alcohol in moderation has been shown to have some health benefits. Responsible use of alcohol can boost your long term brain function, as long as you do not overdo it!
Quit smoking now. No studies have shown health benefits from smoking, so now is a great time to quit. Quitting smoking has tremendous health benefits that begin the first day after your last cigarette.
Plenty of help is available from different programs and agencies, or you can consult with your doctor for the best strategies for kicking this bad habit that is not only bad for your overall health, but compromises your brain functioning, too.
Get plenty of sleep. A well rested brain can more easily recover from the stresses of everyday life. You will find that getting a solid 7-8 hours of sleep each night helps your memory and cognitive functioning, and you will feel fresher and more organized, with plenty of energy!
It is never too late to boost your brain function and increase your memory and cognitive skills.
SOURCES: http://www.prevention.com/health/brain-games/healthy-lifestyle-habits-boost-brain-function-memoryhttp://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20365995,00.html; Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net