Be mentally sharper for longer with this advice

Brain

Dr Mel Wynne-Jones shares her advice © iStock

1. I’ll walk, thanks

Or run, dance, climb stairs – or just keep moving. Regular exercise stimulates your brain’s oxygen supply, nourishing nerve cells and dilating arteries, which can protect against strokes and dementia. It also produces feel-good endorphins to boost our mood.

2. Fancy a cuppa?

Caffeine wakes our brains up but too much can make us jittery, and it may protect against dementia. Sharing a cuppa can also be sociable and lower stress. Drinking water refreshes dehydrated brain function.

3. I’m having an early night

Getting less sleep than we need slows thinking, affects memory, lowers mood and can cause accidents while driving or operating machinery. Firming up memories also requires several hours of ‘deep’ sleep. Longer-term, poor sleep can lead to brain-harming obesity, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

So make sure you get enough. For advice, visit nhs.uk/livewell/sleep.

4. Mind my head

New research has linked football ‘headers’ to dementia. Severe head injuries and concussion can affect long-term thinking and memory. Wear a safety helmet for cycling or hazardous work.

5. Just the one

Alcohol relaxes your brain, but too much makes us slur our speech and suffer brain fog the next day. Too much, too often, damages nerve cells and increases our risk of depression, strokes and dementia. Stick to the recommended limits (go to nhs.uk/livewell/alcohol).

6. Let’s do something different

Sudoku keeps your brains active, but trying different activities can create new links between nerve cells. Try tackling a crossword or learn a new language or a musical instrument. Or if you’re 50 or over, sign up for the Alzheimer Society’s brain-training study at protectstudy.org.uk.

7. I’m on the Mediterranean diet  

Eat less meat, sugar and saturated fats and more wholegrains, fruit, veg and oily fish to get the minerals, vitamins and omega-3 fats that help us think. This diet may also protect against brain shrinkage, dementia, heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes.

8. Gimme a break

Mental and physical stress can make us tired, anxious or depressed. In the long-term, it may increase our risk of strokes and dementia. Give your brain regular time out – try meditation, Pilates, yoga or mindfulness (protectstudy.org.uk).

9. I don’t smoke

Nicotine targets your brain. Without it, smokers suffer from cravings and anxiety. Longer term, smoking damages brain arteries.

Go to nhs.uk/livewell/smoking which can help you quit.

10. Yes, yes, yes!

Lovemaking releases mood-boosting endorphins. Sexual activity may also improve our recall powers or encourage new nerve cell development in the hippocampus – a crucial brain area for memory function.

11. Slow down

Doing too many things at once overloads our reasoning, concentration and memory processes, so we make mistakes or forget things – sometimes permanently. Don’t multitask. Instead make lists and slow tasks down to your own pace.

12. Let’s talk

Conversation boosts our mood and brain cells. It can entertain, stimulate, challenge or make us feel supported. Loneliness can make us feel isolated and depressed, so being sociable is good for us, and other people, too. Find useful advice, information
and support for loneliness at mind.org.uk and ageuk.org.uk.