Keep your brain health in check with these simple strategies from dementia expert Hester Anderiesen Le Riche.
Maintaining cognitive wellbeing becomes of greater concern as you age, especially as the Alzheimer’s Society predicts that 1.6 million people will be living with dementia by 2024.
Despite being unable to ‘heal’ our brains, or prevent dementia from developing altogether, we can delay the point at which symptoms begin.
In Alzheimer’s disease (the most common type of dementia, accounting for 60-80 per cent of cases), the first signs are short-term memory loss or difficulties planning consecutive steps of an activity.
These functions lie within the prefrontal cortex, which is the area of the brain where we can make a difference.
We can protect this frontal lobe by enjoying a healthy, active and stimulating life.
The following lifestyle habits will support the ‘cognitive reserve’: the protective layer that prevents damage to the brain.
Get in touch with your musical side
The act of playing an instrument is all about making new neural connections within and between the different areas of the brain.
These connections can make you more resistant to the effects of cognitive challenges that may develop later on life.
Social opportunities are clearly limited at the moment, but keeping in contact with people is fundamental to strengthening your brain. I’d recommend dedicating some time every day to socialising of some kind.
From my years of experience developing play technology, Tovertafel, I have found that socialisation not only reduces feelings of apathy (the ability to engage with the world around us in a meaningful way) but also keeps the brain energised and stimulated.
Keep physically active
Something as simple as a brisk 20-minute walk will keep your mind stimulated.
By taking up some form of physical activity each day, you keep the brain challenged, which has is crucial to cognitive health.
Creativity boosts the brain’s capacity, as it helps to build connections which prevent memory loss and preserve cognitive functions.
Take up painting, cook a new recipe, or tackle that DIY job you’ve been avoiding for months.
Hester Anderiesen Le Riche PhD is an expert in how play can improve the quality of life of those living with cognitive challenges and learning disabilities. Based on years of research with people with cognitive challenges and their carers, as well as her training as a social engineer, Hester developed the world’s first interactive light game for those with cognitive challenges – the Tovertafel.