Looking for a new year’s resolution? Start investing in your brain health. It will pay dividends down the road!

Illustration of a head with dollar signs

Toronto, Dec. 11, 2013 – As leaders from the G8 group of industrialized countries meet in London today for a special summit on dementia, the experts at Baycrest Health Sciences and its world-renowned Rotman Research Institute have come up with a Top 10 list of the best strategies for optimizing your brain health. Make this your new year’s resolution and plan to invest for the long term.

Commit to a regular exercise routine
What is good for the heart is good for the brain. Cardiovascular exercise that gets your heart pumping not only protects you from developing high blood pressure, elevated blood cholesterol and type 2 diabetes, but leads to the growth and survival of new neurons (brain cells), particularly in the hippocampus – the area in the brain that is most important for memory.

Think before you eat
There is strong research to suggest that a Mediterranean diet – rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, cereals and fish – nourishes areas of your brain that are actively involved with speech, learning and reasoning and promotes the growth of new brain cells and new neural connections.

Challenge your brain
Engage in activities that make you think and learn new things. Mental stimulation enhances brain activity and may help you maintain your cognitive function throughout life. Play mind-challenging games, learn a new language or musical instrument, sign up for an evening class, pursue that advanced degree, and stay engaged in hobbies.

Try to avoid these brain enemies
Hypertension, obesity, smoking, high cholesterol and diabetes are not only bad for your heart, they are risk factors for developing dementia.

Manage your stress
Chronic stress can have adverse effects on your blood vessels and trigger the release of hormones that damage brain cells. Make time for things you find relaxing, such as going for a stroll, listening to music, or reading a good book. Meditating, deep breathing and yoga are also good ways to relieve stress

Go for a walk in the park
In Japan it’s known as forest bathing. New research suggests that going for a walk in the park, away from city noise, has restorative powers for the brain. Park walking not only refreshes and improves cognition, but lifts mood too!

Stay socially active
People who regularly interact with others maintain their brain function better than those who do not. There are many ways to maintain social connectedness: keep in touch with family and friends, volunteer, join a local club or a recreational group activity.

If you’re retired, volunteer
The research is still sparse, but some studies are showing that retired adults who stay active with volunteering are less depressed, live longer and perform better on memory tests and some types of attention, compared to retired adults who don’t volunteer

Protect your head
There is growing awareness about the risks of sports-related concussions to our cognitive health over the long term. Learn the warning signs of a possible concussion, seek medical treatment, and take steps to reduce the risk of further concussions.

If you’re depressed, seek help
People with a history of untreated depression during mid-life and beyond have twice the chance of developing dementia down the road, compared to those with no history of depression.

These tips were brought to you by Baycrest Health Sciences, a global leader in innovations in aging and brain health, www.baycrest.org. For more information on strategies to maintain your brain health as you age, there are several new books written by Baycrest experts: “The Memory Clinic: Stories of hope and healing for Alzheimer’s patients and their families” by Dr. Tiffany Chow; “Mindfull: Over 100 delicious recipes for better brain health” by Dr. Carol Greenwood et al; and “Living with Mild Cognitive Impairment: A guide to maximizing brain health and reducing risk of dementia” by Dr. Nicole Anderson et al.

For more information on this press release, please contact:

Kelly Connelly, Senior Media Officer
Baycrest Health Sciences