The internet is awash with conflicting advice about the tactics people should employ to ensure they stay healthy and live to a ripe old age.
Undoubtedly one of the most important elements in achieving this is maintaining good brain health, particularly as we reach the latter stages in life.
With that in mind, we have saved you time and effort to come up with four scientifically proven ways you can keep your brain healthy.
Establish a healthy sleeping pattern
Sleep plays a crucial role in our overall health and wellbeing, providing us with a platform to recover from the stresses of the day and prepare for another one.
According to a recent Betway Insider study, the best way to achieve this is to establish a structured sleeping pattern which involves a relaxing pre-bedtime routine.
Meditating for 30 minutes before sleep was found to be the most effective method for achieving optimum resting conditions each night.
Neuroscientist Matthew Walker adds another layer into the mix by saying people should know their chronotype, which is the body’s natural inclination to sleep at a certain time.
“You need to sleep in harmony with your chronotype to get the best sleep,” he said.
“For example, I’m somewhere in the middle and quite neutral – I’m between an 11.00 pm to 11.30 pm bedtime to a 7.00 am – 7.30 am wake up time, which puts me in the neutral category.
“If I was to go to bed at 9.00 pm and then wake up eight hours later, or go to bed at 4.00 am and wake up eight hours later versus my neutral eight-hour sleep window, it’ll make a big difference.
“You might think ‘but it’s still eight hours of sleep’, but the difference is that with one of these options I’m sleeping in sync with what my biological rhythms want me to do and the other times I’m out of sync and won’t sleep as well.”
Play video games
While playing video games is often pigeon-holed as a light-hearted entertainment activity, it can also be hugely beneficial to brain health.
Several studies have found that playing first-person puzzle games contributes to improved problem-solving and spatial skills among children.
Other research discovered that playing games such as Super Mario results in memory improvements for people at the other end of the age scale.
A more recent study published on JAMA Network Open found that children who played video games for three or more hours per day were quicker and more accurate on cognitive tasks than those who never played.
Bader Chaarani, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont, says the findings demonstrate that video games can be a force for good.
“While we cannot say whether playing video games regularly caused superior neurocognitive performance, it is an encouraging finding,” he said.
“It is one that we must continue to investigate in these children as they transition into adolescence and young adulthood.
“Many parents today are concerned about the effects of video games on their children’s health and development.
“As these games continue to proliferate among young people, it is crucial that we better understand both the positive and negative impact that such games may have.”
Take regular outdoor exercise
We have repeatedly been told about the benefits of undertaking regular exercise to boost our physical health and mental wellbeing.
However, there is an increasing body of evidence which suggests heightened levels of physical activity play a crucial role in staving off the onset of dementia.
A recent study published in the Alzheimer’s & Dementia journal shows that increasing the levels of daily steps and moderate to vigorous physical activity in women aged 63 and over was good for their brains.
The results highlight the importance of the level of physical activity required to reduce the risk of mild cognitive impairment and dementia.
Consultant neurologist Dr Steven Allder says the findings are a noteworthy leap forward in understanding how to reduce the risk of dementia in females.
“It is well accepted that physical activity (PA) is one of three most promising intervention targets for reducing the risk of dementia,” Allder said.
“What this study added was a focus on women, as they are at the highest risk of old age dementia, measuring PA with accelerometery rather than self-reported and using rigorous clinical criteria for the endpoints of MCI and probable dementia.
“These results align well with other large studies of PA and dementia risk but where the PA was not so rigorously assessed.”
Eat plenty of oily fish
Fish is often called ‘brain food’ and has repeatedly been linked to improving cognitive performance in people across the age spectrum.
However, a new study has suggested that specific types of fish are responsible for delivering significantly better results in boosting brain health.
Researchers at the University of Texas found that people who have more omega-3 in their blood during midlife have better cognition than those who have lower levels of the fatty acid.
Higher levels of omega-3 derived from eating oily fish was linked to better thinking skills in middle aged people, and gave them a better platform for cognition in later life.
Lead author Claudia Satizabal believes the findings are significant as this is one of the first studies conducted into the impact of omega-3 in the 40-50 age group.
“Studies have looked at this association in older populations,” she said.
“The new contribution here is that, even at younger ages, if you have a diet that includes some omega-3 fatty acids, you are already protecting your brain for most of the indicators of brain aging that we see at middle age.
“It’s complex and we don’t understand everything yet, but we show that, somehow, if you increase your consumption of omega-3s, even by a little bit, you are protecting your brain.”