Thursday, 23rd November 2017
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Our brain is a pretty impressive invention. It’s more complex than the most sophisticated computer and can store a bewildering amount of information. Indeed, we own the most powerful, the most complex and the most amazing piece of hardware ever made. Yet do we spend enough time keeping it well-oiled and running smoothly?

Looking after our grey matter helps brain health. Although we can’t prevent all types of dementia, the following simple everyday steps can reduce that risk, while also helping a person with dementia to live well.

Get physically active

Physical activity is very important for brain health. Every adult should aim to include 150 minutes of physical activity in their week. That said, you don’t need to recruit a personal trainer or run a marathon! A brisk walk that raises your heart rate but does not leave you breathless is good for both your cardiovascular and brain health.

Keep your brain active

Mental stimulation is also very important. Everyday activities such as going to work, reading, playing cards, doing crosswords, or playing a musical instrument, all keep your brain active. These activities should be a bit challenging but still enjoyable.

Exercising your brain could also mean learning a new skill, or experiencing new people and new places. You could sign up to a language class or computer skills course, or visit a museum you have never visited before.

Stay social

Try to keep up your contacts with family, friends and neighbours. Keeping socially engaged helps you to stay mentally sharp and it's far more fun than sitting on the couch watching TV! This is the perfect time of year to pair up with a family member or friend and go for a walk or participate in an activity in your local sports club. Indeed by engaging with others and doing something physical, you're giving your brain health a double boost.

Short on time? Not a problem! Just ten minutes of social interaction can greatly increase your brain performance, so just calling a friend or family member for a quick chat can improve your brain health.

Quit smoking

It’s hard to quit smoking but it can be done and it’s one more way to maintain a healthy body and brain. With the help of the HSE QUIT team you can double your chances of quitting; give them a ring on 1800 201 203 or text them for free on 50100 and receive a call back.

Know your blood pressure

Healthy blood pressure is important not just for your heart but also for your brain health. You should get your blood pressure checked each time you visit your doctor, or at least once every six months.

Healthy eating

A balanced diet that is rich in vegetables, fruit, wholegrains, dairy, lean meats, poultry and fish is a good starting point. The brain benefits from a diet low in saturated fats and high in fruits and green vegetables. Eating healthy food combined with reducing alcohol consumption are important for body and brain.

Some ideas to inspire!

1. Go for a brisk walk for 30 minutes, five days a week

2. Try doing a mind game every day or visit a new place once a week, such as a gallery or historic building, to stimulate your brain

3. Visit your local library for information about activities in your area or join a local club like the Men's Sheds or active retirement association and meet new people

4. Think young! Don’t focus on your age and what you can’t do, rather think young and focus on what you can do

5. Take up a cookery class and get some new ideas for at least one healthy meal a day made from fresh ingredients

This feature is the third in a series of "Dementia:

Understand Together" articles. Next week we look at the signs and symptoms of dementia. For more information, Freephone 1800 341 341 or visit http://www.understandtogether.ie

"Focus on Dementia" is an initiative of the Dementia: Understand Together campaign.

Dementia: Understand Together is a public support, awareness and information campaign. It aims to inspire people from all sections of society to stand together with the 500,000 Irish people whose families have been affected by dementia.

The campaign is led by the HSE, working with the Alzheimer Society of Ireland and Genio, and supported by Waterford Today.

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