Don't lose your mind now! Especially not if you want to live a long and healthy life. A good mind - or rather a good cognitive performance - is an important prerequisite for a long life. In school, training and generally in your younger years, you learn a lot and thus keep your brain fit. But as you get older, you learn fewer and fewer new things. You may be familiar with exercises such as brain jogging, Sudoku or puzzles that promise to improve your cognitive performance and thus keep you healthy longer.
However, you can do a lot more to help your brain stay fit. An important concept of brain fitness is neuroplasticity. This means that the brain is flexible and can adapt optimally to the demands and external influences. To do this, the brain forms new synapses and adapts everything on a cellular level so that it can work optimally.
You can think of the connections in your brain as little trails. The more often you practice something, the more often you walk this path. This makes it wider and you get to know it better and better. If you don't use the path for a longer period of time, it grows a little bit wider again. So many learned skills will not be completely unlearned. After a while, it just needs a little practice again. Just like the motto: "You don't unlearn that, it's like riding a bike."
Nutrition - feed your brain properly
If you eat healthy, you not only keep your body fit, but also your mind. Proteins help build muscle and regenerate after a hard training session. But what supports the brain in growing and regenerating?
Your brain consumes a quarter of the total energy you take in. This is remarkable when you consider that it is only a fraction of your body weight, weighing about 1500 grams. This makes it all the more important that you eat the right things. In addition to general healthy eating, there are a few substances that are particularly beneficial for neuroplasticity. These include turmeric, the yellow spice that is the basis of most curry powders. Resveratrol, which you've probably read about in some of our articles, is also a real magic bullet for your brain. Red grapes and peanuts naturally contain significant amounts of resveratrol.
In a large-scale study, the molecule improved cognitive performance in older women. Here you can read more about the study.
Polyphenols with antioxidant properties can be found in many other plant foods (read here the article on antioxidants). Especially many are hidden in blueberries. One ingredient is said to be particularly beneficial for brain regeneration. We are talking about sulforaphane. This substance is particularly abundant in broccoli, cabbage, arugula, mustard, cress and horseradish.
Exercise - boosts your cognitive performance
To keep your mind fit, you should also keep your body fit. Sports activities train your brain, especially in areas that are responsible for motor skills. If you learn new sports or new movement sequences, you train your brain in particular.
You probably know that you feel uncoordinated at first with new movements. But with practice comes improvement. For example, can you move your toes separately? No? - that's the way most people feel. Because we wear shoes every day, we don't need the separate mobility of our toes. But if you start to train it, you will realize that it is possible. First you need to find the right trails for it and then it just takes some practice to widen the overgrown trails again.
There are studies that have shown that dancing in particular is very healthy for cognitive performance. A lot of things come together there; the movement and the demanding coordination, the music and the sense of rhythm associated with it. And since we usually don't dance alone, the company also contributes a positive effect.
Social contacts are good for you, no question about it. They make us happy and balanced. The positive effect of social contacts on our health has been proven many times. Particularly in old age, social contacts and exchanges with others help us to stay fit in the head.
Think outside the box! Getting creative and not always thinking in familiar patterns trains the brain. Let's stay with the example of the trails: Sometimes it's good to try out a new trail. You can take a different path to reach the same destination, maybe even faster. In return, you see a new environment, get to know new processes, and train your cognitive ability along the way.
Speaking many languages is not only beneficial for one's career. People who grew up speaking several languages also performed better in cognitive performance tests. They were able to adapt more quickly to the new demands of tasks that were set differently.
Growing up bilingual is probably too late by the time you read this article. But learning new languages also challenges and enhances your cognitive performance. You improve the plasticity of your brain by learning new languages, because several terms in different languages are stored per term.
Chewing for healthy cognition
Yes, you read correctly, good chewing and healthy oral hygiene contribute to a healthy brain. The so-called occlusion function is important for this. That is, how well your teeth and thus the jaw fit together. So if you have always worn your braces regularly, you will hopefully benefit from them for a long time to come. According to a study, the correct function of the jaw muscles leads to certain brain areas being activated and the brain being better supplied with blood. In addition, proper chewing is said to be able to prevent plaques from forming in the brain, which are believed to be responsible for Alzheimer's disease.
Sufficient sleep is important for the body and cognitive performance. The recommended amount of sleep is about seven hours per night. When you sleep enough, your body can regenerate and thus perform better. This is also true for your brain cells. They need to recover at night in order to form as many new synapses as possible during the day and thus support your increased performance through sports, dancing, creative activities and new languages.
- Hewston, P., Kennedy, C. C., Borhan, S., Merom, D., Santaguida, P., Ioannidis, G., Marr, S., Santesso, N., Thabane, L., Bray, S., & Papaioannou, A. (2021). SYSTEMATIC REVIEW Effects of dance on cognitive function in older adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Age and Ageing, 50, 1084-1092. https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afaa270
- Lopez-Chaichio, L., Padial-Molina, M., O'Valle, F., Gil-Montoya, J. A., Catena, A., & Galindo-Moreno, P. (2021). Oral health and healthy chewing for healthy cognitive aging: A comprehensive narrative review. Gerodontology, 38(2), 126-135. https://doi.org/10.1111/GER.12510
- Poulose, S. M., Miller, M. G., Scott, T., & Shukitt-Hale, B. (n.d.). Nutritional Factors Affecting Adult Neurogenesis and Cognitive Function. https://doi. org/10.3945/an.117.016261
- Quinteros Baumgart, C., & Billick, S. B. (n.d.). Positive Cognitive Effects of Bilingualism and Multilingualism on Cerebral Function: a Review. https://doi. org/10.1007/s11126-017-9532-9
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