We all know we should lead a lifestyle that helps us maintain or improve our health as we age, but what about brain health? Already there is an estimated 400,000 people living with dementia in Australia and as our population ages that number is set to skyrocket another 50% by 2056. 

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The good news is there are some simple steps to help maintain your mental clarity and reduce your risk of dementia as you age. Follow these steps and you're well on your way to a happy and healthy brain.

 


Step 1 - Follow a healthy diet

Your brain needs a variety of nutrients to function properly so it makes sense that a nutritious diet can help with brain health.  Evidence also supports this idea but more research needs to be done to know whether some foods are of more benefit than others.

"There's good evidence to suggest healthy fats, such as those found in oily fish, may reduce risk of dementia. Foods high in antioxidants, such as berries, tomatoes and beans can also have a positive effect on the brain", said Professor Sue Kurrle, Clinical Director of the Northern Sydney LHD Aged Care and Rehabilitation Network.

Your best bet is to eat a wide variety of fresh foods to make sure your body is getting what it needs.

Step 2 - Keep active

There is strong evidence to say that maintaining an active lifestyle can help brain function and reduce cognitive decline.

"Physical activity gets the blood pumping and increases flow to the brain, which stimulates the growth of new brain cells and has a positive impact on the connections between the cells. It also reduces risk of being overweight or developing heart disease which have been shown to increase risk of dementia," said Professor Kurrle.

It's time to strap on your sneakers and get active for your brain's sake.

Step 3 - Get social

One of the best ways to look after your brain is socialising with people whose company you enjoy and who keep your mind interested.

"Socialising has been found to benefit markers that are related to cognitive function, such as mental and vascular health. Maintaining an active social life may help to build the brain's resilience and lower risk of dementia", said Professor Kurrle.

Mix socialising with some physical activity, such as team sports, and a healthy shared meal for a power combination.

Step 4 - Challenge your brain

As the saying goes, use it or lose it. Research says that challenging the brain with unfamiliar tasks is important to help prevent cognitive decline.

"People tend to do things they've always done, especially as they get older, but it's important to keep the brain stimulated. New challenges stimulate brain cell development and strengthen the connection between them, helping us stay sharp."

Learn a language, take up a new hobby or do a course – it's all about learning something new.