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5 Ways to Boost Your Brain Health with Dr Hilary Jones

Memory blips are natural as we get older, but keeping your mind active and challenged will help to keep your brain younger than your years. Ensure you’re firing on all cylinders with my top tips for looking after your brain health.

1 Lights out 

Night owls take note. Research shows that sleeping less than seven hours a night is linked to poor brain health and memory loss, with studies showing that chemicals released during the deeper stages of sleep are vital for repairing the whole of the body, including the brain. Make sure you’re getting plenty of shut-eye by starting your bed time routine an hour earlier and leaving your phone and tablets out of the bedroom to avoid distractions that will hinder sleep.

2 Take a challenge 

Whenever we do something for the first time our brain builds new connections that keep it active and stimulated. A study with London cab drivers found that as they learnt The Knowledge – the huge task of learning the 25,000 streets and landmarks in central London from memory – they found that the cabbies had significant increase in the area of the brain that looks after memory and learning called the hippocampus. Taking up a new hobby could boost your brain health so why not learn a new language or take up a game like chess to keep your brain challenged.

3  Hearing is believing

Did you know your hearing is not just down to your ears, it’s everything in between your ears too.  Our hearing naturally declines over time, and studies show that straining to hear forces the brain to work harder. Overtime, this effort can take its toll and lead to an increased risk of dementia. Hearing loss can also stop your brain hearing the sounds it needs to hear, causing changes to the part of the brain which looks after language and memory. Going for regular hearing checks is therefore crucial to ensuring your hearing is taken care of and you enjoy the pleasure of sound for a lifetime. The new Oticon Opn™ hearing aid features the latest Brain Hearing™ technology proven to improve speech clarity and reduce listening effort even in demanding listening environments like restaurants and bars. For more info on Oticon Opn™ and to book your free hearing test visit your local Hidden Hearing centre or go to HiddenHearing.co.uk tel. 0800 037 2060.

The UK’s hearing in numbers:

1. 6.7 million people could benefit from a hearing aid but aren’t wearing one

2. Over half of people over 40 claim their hearing is not as good as it used to be

3. On average, it takes 7-10 years for someone to seek help for a hearing problem

4. 2/3 of people aren’t aware that untreated hearing loss increases a person’s risk of dementia

4. Healthy heart, healthy brain

Exercise affects the brain in lots of positive ways – increasing the brain’s oxygen levels and supporting the release of hormones that help to create a healthy environment for the growth of brain cells. Exercise also helps to maintain the brain’s “plasticity” – its ability to change and reorganise itself throughout life by forming new connections between brain cells. Boost your activity levels by looking for an exercise that incorporates coordination along with getting your heart rate up, such as a dance class. Or if you prefer the gym, go for a circuits class which will not only give you a good cardiovascular work-out but keep your brain processing the next challenge too.

5. Food for thought 

We all know that a good, clean diet rich in fruit and vegetables will improve all areas of your health, but eating healthily is also linked to slowing mental health decline too. Topping the list of brain-boosting foods are avocados which are packed with vitamin K and folate, a type of vitamin B which helps to prevent blood clots in the brain (protecting against stroke) as well as helping to improve cognitive function, especially memory and concentration. Beetroot, blueberries, leafy green vegetables, extra virgin olive oil and salmon are all brimming with powerful antioxidants known as polyphenols that not only improve learning and memory, but also reverse the age- and disease-related changes.