Regularly challenging your brain, as well as taking time for your mental wellbeing and sleeping well, can help protect it as you age.
Researchers think challenging your brain helps to build your ‘cognitive reserve’. This is its ability to cope and keep working properly, even in the face of damage from diseases like Alzheimer’s.
So which activities are best for your brain health?
Although understanding is growing all the time, it’s not yet clear which activities are most beneficial.
And activities that some people enjoy - and will therefore do regularly - aren’t for everyone. So the key is to do things you enjoy, whether that’s reading, playing board games, art, learning a new language or something completely different.
Taking time out for hobbies and activities you enjoy can help boost mental wellbeing too. This, combined with good sleep, will mean you're more likely to feel happier, healthier and more relaxed.
How do we know this?
There’s lots of research showing that keeping your brain active can build your cognitive reserve and make your brain more resilient.
One US-based study of 1,903 older people showed that out of the 457 who went on to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, those who regularly challenged their brains by reading, writing and playing games developed the condition about five years later than those who didn’t.
In the UK, researchers found that people who develop high levels of cognitive reserve by the time they reach the age of 69 may be less likely to notice a deterioration in their memory and thinking skills. Higher educational qualifications, challenging work, as well as engaging in more social and leisure activities, were all linked to a slower rate of decline.
These studies and others like them show that putting some time aside to challenge your brain really can help protect it, no matter what age you start.