Suggestions to Keep the Brain Fit at All Ages

Studies that have been going on for many years show that methods such as exercise that protect heart health, nutrition and keeping high blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol levels in balance are also very important for brain health. Although obesity in middle age is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s in later life, weight loss in old age is a greater risk. Likewise, while high blood pressure increases the risk for Alzheimer’s in middle age, it loses its effect in the following years. It is possible to improve brain health at every stage of life.

Childhood: Art and music matter

The first few years of life are spent growing brain cells and developing connections between them called synapses. From birth to age 12, more than 100 billion neurons and 100 trillion synapses develop. A 2-year-old has about twice as many synapses as an adult. This explains why children are so quick to acquire new skills such as language and music

  • Prepare safe gaming environments.
  • Having good eating habits in childhood also has a positive impact on the rest of life. Include whole grains, fruit and eggs in children’s meals.
  • Establish a comfortable sleep routine. According to one study, when children fall asleep, connections between the brain’s left hemisphere, which is responsible for math, logic, and language learning, and the right hemisphere, which is responsible for creative and artistic functions, help the brain mature.
  • Introduce your child to music early. Studies show that children at risk improve their ability to process sounds after participating in music education for two years. This skill is thought to affect better learning-language competencies.

Adolescence Period: Attention to technology!

After childhood, the development of the brain also differs. So much so that during adolescence, the connections in the brain become stronger thanks to the thinning of the cortex layer that covers the brain and the increase in the level of myelin sheath that covers the nerve cells and ensures effective transmission. Adolescence is the most important yet risky period for brain development.

  • There is a surprisingly simple way to keep your child away from harmful habits such as alcohol and drugs; good communication and dinner together.
  • Promote safe sport. Sports, which are beneficial both physically and emotionally, are also very important for brain development.
  • Turn off technological devices before going to bed. Programs like Instagram and WhatsApp are reducing the recommended nine hours of sleep for this age group. Many teenagers watch videos and chat with their friends all night on their phones. Sleep deprivation opens the door to depression and many impulsive behaviors. It should be practiced as a household rule for everyone, including parents, to leave phones out of the bedroom at night and turn off all electronic devices.
  • Adolescence is a vulnerable period for weight gain. Keep products containing added sugar, such as carbonated and energy drinks, away from your home, and encourage unsweetened herbal teas and plenty of water.

 Adulthood: Learn to deal with stress

In adulthood,  between the ages of 20 and 39,  different areas of the brain become more interconnected. Thus, a control-balance system is formed for emotional impulses. During this period, more myelin develops around the axons (nerve fiber, the thin, long projection of the neuron that carries electrical impulses), accelerating communication throughout the brain.

  • Learn to deal with stress. Research shows that stress, fear and anxiety affect the brain, putting them at greater risk for the development of dementia and other conditions later in life.
  • Exercise outdoors. Exercise is one of the most important ways to keep the brain healthy. Outdoor activities such as jogging, tennis or cycling also help replenish vitamin D stores. Exposure to sunlight can prevent depression and improve sleep. Both mean a healthier brain.
  • If you smoke, it’s time to quit this habit! Smoking not only causes brain damage and vascular dementia and increases the risk of stroke. Long-term smoking can cause thinning of the cerebral cortex, the outer layer of the brain, where critical cognitive functions such as memory, language, and perception occur. 

Middle Ages: Maintain your health

Obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes affect brain health in middle age.

Special warnings for the 40-64 age period :

  • Think more. Traveling to a different country, learning a new language, watching or reviewing movies that typically don’t interest you, or reading books outside of your area of ​​interest can all help.
  • Take control of your diabetes. In this way, you can reduce the risk of dementia in half.
  • Take care of weight loss. Researchers have revealed a link between increased body weight and reduced size of the hippocampus, an area of ​​the brain important for learning and memory. Get at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise three times a week and talk to your doctor about weight loss.
  • If there is a sleep apnea problem, take action for treatment. About one and a half million people in Turkey suffer from sleep apnea, which causes respiratory arrests dozens of times during the night due to an obstructed airway condition. Research proves that adults with sleep apnea experience cognitive decline at an earlier age. 

Old Age: Stay socially and mentally active

After the age of 65, some changes in the brain are inevitable. But the more you keep the body healthy and challenge different parts of the brain, the more you support its good functioning. By keeping the brain active and vigorous, severe cognitive losses can be delayed for five years. The risk for stroke increases with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia in this age group. One in nine people over the age of 65 have a one-third risk by age 85. The weaker the body, the greater the risk of falling, which puts brain health at risk.

  • Call at least one friend a day. The more you communicate with friends and family, the more opportunities you create to exercise the brain. Less frequent social contact, loneliness, and physical inactivity increase other well-known risks of dementia, including later life depression.
  • Learn smartphone usage. While too much technology can be harmful to the developing brain, distance education, online banking, online shopping, playing word sudoku games on your phone can be important. It is a means of staying socially and mentally active.
  • Do something different at least once a week. In retirement, people often maintain the same habits. However, by making small innovations, it can stimulate the secretion of norepinephrine, a powerful neurotransmitter (chemicals that enable communication between neurons) that increases motivation, alertness and speed, and in this way, your learning becomes permanent.
  • Moderate exercise, such as walking, helps reverse the shrinking of the outer layer of the brain in both healthy older people and those with mild cognitive impairment. Even a short walk of 15 minutes a day is effective. Strength training is important in maintaining brain health. Therefore, even if you are wheelchair bound, you can exercise sitting down.
  • Keep your home safe. Falling is the leading cause of traumatic brain injury, and the risk of falling increases drastically after age 75. Make sure you don’t use any drugs that make you dizzy, make sure your eyeglass prescription is up to date, and have your eyes checked. Review situations that increase the risk of tripping, such as cables, rugs, and loose guardrails.