By Hester Anderiesen Le Riche, PhD – CEO, creator and founder of pioneering cognitive stimulation system, the Tovertafel.
Without a ‘cure’ or treatment to reverse the damage caused by diseases like dementia, people increasingly wonder – is there anything we can do to maintain cognitive wellbeing?
The good news is – there is! Despite being unable to ‘heal’ our brains, or prevent dementia from developing altogether, we can in fact delay the point at which symptoms begin. In Alzheimer’s disease (the most common type of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of cases), the first signs are short term memory loss or difficulties planning consecutive steps of an activity. These functions lie within the prefrontal cortex, which is the area of the brain where we can make a difference.
We can protect this frontal lobe by enjoying a healthy, active and stimulating life. The following 5 lifestyle habits will support the ‘cognitive reserve’, the protective layer that prevents damage to the brain – and building this shield is actually lots of fun!
1 Keep physically active – By taking up some form of physical activity each day, you keep the brain motivated and challenged – which has huge benefits for your cognitive health!
2 Stay Social – Socialising is important, even if it can only be a socially distanced walk with a friend or conversation over the phone for now. Whilst developing Tovertafel, I found that socialisation reduces feelings of apathy and keeps the brain energised and stimulated.
3 Be creative – Creativity boosts the brain’s capacity as it helps to build connections in the brain which prevent memory loss and preserve cognitive functions. These connections can make you more resistant to the effects of cognitive challenges that may develop later on life.
4 Get in touch with your musical side – It’s never too late to take up a new instrument or return to an old one. You don’t have to be the next Mozart – it is all about making new connections within and between brain areas.
5 Get inspired – Another fantastic way to maintain your cognitive wellbeing is to get inspired and get curious by experiencing new cultures and foreign concepts.
Hester Anderiesen Le Riche, PhD, is an expert in how play can improve the quality of life of those living with cognitive challenges and learning disabilities. Based on years of research with people with cognitive challenges and their carers, as well as her training as a social engineer, Hester developed the world’s first interactive light game for those with cognitive challenges – the Tovertafel.