Staying active socially and mentally
Staying active mentally and socially as you get older is crucial to maintaining brain health.
Being social stimulates the brain; requiring it to process complex information so that we are able to adapt to other people's behaviours and intentions. Missing out on this through social isolation increases the risk of developing dementia 29 and affects your physical and mental health (high blood pressure, heart disease, low mood). The mind and the body health are linked.
Fortunately, the relationship between being social isolation and brain health is two way. Even small changes in social interactions can improve your memory and thinking: one study shows that interacting with someone else for ten-minutes before taking memory and attention task improved their results30. Social interaction is good for healthy adults as well as those living with dementia, so volunteer, join a sports club or start a book club.
Exercising your brain will help keep it young. Playing games, such as crosswords and Sudoku puzzles, can help the blood flow in the brain24, improve the brain's structure 25 , and helps memory and thinking skills. This is particularly important in midlife, as those that regularly engage in intellectual, artistic, and manual activities during that part of their life see less brain health decline as they age26, 31, 32.
Reading and writing, visiting museums, painting, playing instruments, needlework, and gardening throughout midlife are associated with reduced risk of developing dementia. Those that do develop dementia, experience this at later age and the condition progresses more slowly32.
Why not combine all of these healthy-brain activities at once? Joining a dancing group is social and intellectually and physically active, which is why dementia specialists recommend it.