Looking after your Brain Health

 

The brain is the most complex organ of the human body. It receives, processes and interprets information and is responsible for how we feel, think, move and interact with the world around us. There are many things that can affect brain health (from pre-birth through to old age), including injuries, poor mental health, substance abuse and diseases, such as Alzheimer’s Disease, which is just one of many causes of dementia. Making a few lifestyle changes can have a big impact on our brain health and can even reduce the risk of dementia. Below we suggest some simple steps we can all make to improve our brain health. You may also be interested in attending one of our Brain Health Cafes.

Brain Health Cafes

Working with NHS partners, Dementia Forward has developed a new model of Brain Health Cafes. They are supportive, welcoming groups, where we offer support and advice and promote activities relating to brain health. We often have speakers from local organisations that run additional activities that may be helpful, and from the memory service, who can offer tips on managing memory and living well. The cafes are weekly, social groups where you can benefit from peer support, ask questions and spend time with other people in a supportive environment. The cafes have been piloted in York, another has opened in Malton in April 2024 and we are hoping to bring them to other areas of North Yorkshire soon.

Please download full details here:

Acomb Brain Health Cafe

Wigginton Brain Health Cafe

Norton Brain Health Cafe

 

 

So, what can you do to improve your brain health?

1. Keep your heart healthy – what’s good for the heart is good for the brain!

Make sure you have regular blood pressure and cholesterol checks; a healthy heart improves blood flow to the brain which reduces damage to blood vessels. It also reduces the risk of stroke and heart attack which can lead to cognitive impairment and dementia.

2. Eat well and maintain a healthy weight

This will help control blood pressure and prevent harmful levels of cholesterol building up. It can also help you stay in shape, putting less pressure on the heart. Try and eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and veg and limit foods high in saturated fat and sugar. Have a treat now and then, but do so in moderation.

3. Stay physically active

Exercise helps our heart pump blood around our bodies, which is great for brain health as it delivers vital oxygen and nutrients to the brain. Being active can help reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes, which is known to affect brain health and is a risk factor for dementia. If you smoke, get support to stop, as it raises your dementia risk in later life and is linked to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. It’s never too late to quit.

4. Drink responsibly

Follow government recommendations of drinking less than 14 units per week as heavy drinking is linked to cancer, heart disease and stroke. There is also a specific form of dementia called Wernike-Korsakoff Syndrome which is linked to long term heavy drinking.

5. Keep cognitively and socially active

Meeting friends and maintaining hobbies can improve your mood and reduce loneliness and depression. If you keep your brain working, studies show you can continue to build your brain throughout your life and delay or even prevent later dementia risk. Being part of a social group or club, such as the Rotary or U3A, or volunteering in your community, is a great way to keep you active and stimulated. Make sure your hearing is as good as it can be as mid-life hearing loss can lead to becoming socially disconnected. Get your ears checked and wear your hearing aids where needed.

GSK Impact AwardsBallerina House, Lavender Fields Care Village

 

When to seek advice and support?

Everyone is different and changes in cognition also differ from one person to the next. If you are experiencing confusion or increased memory problems, the best thing to do is to speak to a doctor. It’s a good idea to take someone with you, so that they can help you explain what you are experiencing and anything they may have noticed. Key changes to look out for could be problems with memory or mental agility, difficulties with everyday tasks, mood or behavioural changes or significant problems with understanding or communicating language.