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So you want to keep your noggin sharp?

Without having a mind that is functional, we forget, become depressed and even allow a disease like Alzheimer's into our lives. According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, adults who frequently engage in mentally stimulating activities were 63 percent less likely to develop dementia. We want to keep our minds healthy like the rest of our bodies. But for some people, they believe it's just the luck of the draw to keep the brain fit as they are powerless to keep the mind strong. We are all afraid to lose mental capacity as we get old. As a matter of fact, an estimated 44 percent of people were more scared of losing their mental faculties than getting cancer or heart disease, Woman's Day shared. 
 
We all want to keep our minds fit. The good news is that you can shield yourself from things that would harm the brain. You can engage in mental activities, watch your weight, exercise, invest in relationships and make sure you maintain your overall health for a healthy brain. Consider the following 6 tips to remain sharp for life.

You have control regarding Alzheimer's disease.

The Alzheimer’s Association said an estimated 5.4 million people have the disease in the United States over the age of 65 and approximately 200,000 under the age of 65 have it. However, even if you have a family history of Alzheimer’s disease, it is not 100 percent genetically determined. Researchers are finding that those who remained mentally active during midlife had lower levels of a protein that built around the brain tissue that causes the disease. Midlife is when people start to become more complacent, so protect yourself by keeping your mind engaged is a must. This can be auditing a college class or being more actively engaged in the community.

Keep your weight in check.

If you are overweight it does impact your mind. Obesity can even damage the brain because of the sugar and fat that is ingested. Belly fat decreases brain volume in adults as the fat triggers inflammation that may impact the brain. The Journal of the American Geriatric Society found that the memory test scores for women overweight between the ages 65 to 79 found a one point decrease in their memory scores. They found a link between the mind and having a higher body mass index (BMI). Researchers also believe that inflammation in the muscles, liver and pancreas from obesity impacts cognitive function as they are all connected.

Get more sleep.

Sleep is vitally important for your mind! Over 30 million Americans suffer from some type of sleeping disorder. The National Sleep Foundation found that 45 percent of Americans reported that they can't get enough sleep. People who suffer from a lack of sleep have more stress, depression, anxiety and it damages their overall health. A lack of sleep impairs cognitive function and makes it harder to learn. It affects perception, memory, performance, attention and alertness Howard LeWine, M.D. and Chief Medical Editor at Harvard Health wrote. “People who are persistently sleep deprived are more likely to have high blood pressure, diabetes and narrowed blood vessels. Each of these can decrease blood flow inside the brain.” If you need help with your sleep, refrain from caffeine in the afternoon and avoid alcohol as this is counterproductive. Create a sleeping schedule like taking a warm bath, listening to soft music or using meditation. If you’re still having issues, call your doctor.

Start socializing.

Maintaining strong social ties is good for your brain and could add years to your life. Having relationships keeps your mind active and keeps you feeling young. People who lack social support have a less active mind and less active memory. They may experience more weight gain, high blood pressure and stress. The Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry found that "feeling lonely rather than being alone was associated with dementia onset suggests that it is not the objective situation, but rather the perceived absence of social attachments that increases the risk of cognitive decline." Having support from people who can challenge you is not only good for the mind but is good for your overall health.

Learn something new.

Challenging your mind will help your brain maintain and even increase brain cells. Learn a new language, learn a new hobby or go back to school. This will keep the brain active and give you something to look forward to. Using the excuse that you’re too old is just that—an excuse. Join a book club, find a network of people with similar interests as you, attend lectures and go to cultural events. Read, do puzzles and other tasks that stimulate the brain. Play games that challenge you like card games or go to a trivia night.

Start exercising.

Research is showing how physical activity lowers the risk of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. Adults who are physically active may be less likely to get Alzheimer’s or dementia than adults who are not physically active. Exercise has the ability to reduce inflammation and has a way to "stimulate the release of growth factors—chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain," Heidi Godman, Executive Editor of the Harvard Health Letter wrote. Exercising is believed to increase the volume of selected brain regions.

The brain does shrink as we age and we do lose more matter every decade after the age of 60. Yet, we don't have to sit down and take it. You can be proactive in protecting your brain and keep it fit for life by making small adjustments. Challenge yourself today by making your noggin a priority.
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