When someone asks you to think about health, wellness and fitness, you usually think about physical health, exercise or nutrition. As people age, they often concentrate on improving and maintaining their physical health, when they should also be working on their cognitive or brain health. Since Brain Awareness Week is coming up March 16-22, I would like to share a few things you can do to maintain a healthy brain. Getting enough good, quality sleep is important along with eating a heart healthy diet and exercising regularly. I have heard the phrase "what's good for the heart is good for the brain" more than once while working with this topic. Lowering your stress levels and keeping solid social connections and support also contribute to achieving good brain health. Researchers agree that challenging your brain daily is also beneficial and necessary to maintain brain health and delay cognitive decline as we get older.
You are never too young or old too start practicing brain "fitness." We need to challenge our brains with many different activities. It is essential to reach beyond what is comfortable and try new exercises and activities that are interesting, varied and make us think a little more. If an activity becomes too easy, we are not really exercising anymore, so we have to adjust the level of difficulty so that we feel we are challenged again. Not only is it important to get out of our comfort zone, but variety is also key. Our brain has many different areas to keep "fit." Just as we wouldn't be considered physically fit if we only exercised our legs, we couldn't achieve total brain health if we only focus on one area such as short-term memory. When we practice brain fitness, we also have to exercise the areas of critical thinking, spatial reasoning, and long-term memory. Check this blog each week in the month of March to find out more about maintaining and enhancing brain function.