National Alzheimer's and Brain Awareness Month reminds us of the importance of caring for our brain health and taking proactive steps to reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Whether doing the crossword, playing chess, or taking a Ring Side shadow or bag boxing class, you’re invited to explore the various activities and lifestyle choices that can help boost brain health. We also want to highlight your options as you take action toward a healthier mind.
Engage in Regular Physical Exercise
Physical exercise isn't just beneficial for the body; it also has a profound impact on brain health. Engaging in regular aerobic exercises, such as walking, swimming, or cycling, increases blood flow to the brain and promotes the growth of new neurons. At the Y, you can participate in fitness classes, pick up a new sport, or simply enjoy our accessible amenities, like the pools and walking tracks.
Challenge Your Mind
Keeping your brain active and engaged is crucial for maintaining lifetime cognitive function. Activities such as reading – whether it’s on your own or through a book club – or joining a knitting group, working on puzzles, playing board games, or learning a new skill all stimulate different areas of the brain. This stimulation, in turn, helps build cognitive reserve which is your brain's ability to improvise and find alternate ways of getting a job done. Check out our events and meet-ups to learn more about some of the ways you can get involved.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
A balanced and nutritious diet plays a significant role in brain health. Studies have shown that foods that are rich in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins all benefit your brain’s daily functions. This means eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are known as good or healthy fats that help the brain function more efficiently. A good source of healthy fats can be found in fish, olive oil, avocados, and nuts. The Y offers cooking classes during each of our seasonal registered sessions and through YMCA360 that can help you make informed dietary choices.
Get Sufficient Quality Sleep
Anyone who has had a sleepless night can tell you how much it affects your ability to function. Sleep is vital for brain health. When we sleep our brains are able to consolidate memories and restore its functions. Establish a consistent sleep routine and aim for 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.
Socialize and Connect with Others
It may be surprising to learn that maintaining social connections is essential for brain health. Engaging in social activities, spending time with loved ones, and joining community groups can help reduce the risk of cognitive decline. There has also been accumulating evidence that socializing is good for your brain health. People who connect with others generally perform better on tests of memory and other cognitive skills. And, in the long run, people with active social lives are less likely to develop dementia than those who are more socially isolated. The Y is a great place to foster social connections through group fitness classes, volunteer opportunities, or community events.
Research has shown that chronic stress can have detrimental effects on the brain, so it's important to find healthy ways to manage and reduce stress levels. Incorporate stress-reducing activities into your routine, such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises, or spending time in nature. We offer many wellness programs that focus on stress management techniques whether you prefer in-person or virtual.
Set aside the time this month to take the steps you need to prioritize your brain health and reduce the risk of cognitive decline. When you incorporate regular physical exercise, mental stimulation, a healthy diet, sufficient sleep, social engagement, and stress management into your life, you can reap all the rewards of a healthy lifestyle, including boosting your brain health. Explore the range of activities, programs, and resources to support you on this journey at the Y. We’re here to help you embrace a lifestyle that nurtures your brain and body all year long.