03 Sep 2014
NICOLA GATES, PhD
A lifetime of engaging enriching activities has been shown to delay the onset of cognitive decline and dementia. Therefore growing or building up your brain through new experiences gives you credits to reduce possible deterioration.
Brain reserve is a concept to describe a brain’s physical and physiological robustness and resilience against disease and trauma. High reserve is due to the growth of more neurons, more synapses, greater connections and neuronal networks. Cognitive reserve is a related idea to describe how a lifetime of cognitive effort through education, occupation and brain stimulating leisure activities builds adaptive flexibility and capacity to learn. Both provide greater protection against disease such as dementia. It is vital to grow a strong brain. Simply put, the more active you are the greater the benefits.
- Keep learning. Participation in intellectually stimulating hobbies and interests such as learning a language or music, or pursuing knowledge on topics of interest.
- Differ early retirement. Multiple longitudinal studies show that the earlier people retire from work their risk of dementia increases as they have not built up enough reserve. How about work differently and retire later- work part-time, choose a less demanding role, choose a different career.
- Volunteer. Volunteering has multiple health benefits such as feelings of engagement, meaning and purpose, and brain reserve builds too.
- Go back to school. Low educational attainment is not a good start to develop reserve, but can be changed. Enrol in educational courses – study history, literature, art, astronomy……….you could even complete a degree.
- Travel and explore. Go to new places- it doesn’t have to be international travel! Be a tourist in your own city! Go for a day trip to another part of town or take a trip into the countryside and explore.
- Expand your world. Be curious. Do something new- go to a different supermarket, take a different walk, buy your coffee from a different vendor, take a different mode of transport – just change the usual routine and say yes to new experiences.
This article was first published by Nicola Gates in her blog, Brain and Mind Psychology.