Your brain is an important part of who you are. It stores childhood memories, affects the way you behave on a day-to-day basis, and allows you to learn and grow as a person. Many people do not consider how important the health of their brain is until their later years when Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia or cognitive decline become a looming threat. But did you know that there are things you can do throughout your life to help maintain your brain function?
In this blog, we will be unpacking five ways to keep your brain as healthy as possible. Let’s get into it!
1. Exercise Regularly
There is a significant amount of evidence that shows that physical exercise can greatly benefit your cognitive function and well-being. Not only does it induce structural and functional changes in the brain, but it is also a protective factor for neurodegeneration. In essence, individuals who are physically active are less likely to experience a decline in their mental function and are at a lower risk of developing dementia.
When you exercise regularly, there is increased blood flow to your brain. Exercise also increases the size of the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain that is responsible for memory.
To reap the benefits that regular exercise provides, you should aim to get 30 minutes of exercise every day, whether that be walking, biking, swimming, or taking a Zumba class.
2. Get Plenty of Quality Sleep
The importance of a good night’s sleep is often taken for granted, and many people don’t associate sleep with brain health. In actuality, the amount of sleep you get has a direct impact on your brain function.
When you sleep, your brain clears out toxins called beta-amyloids, which accumulate during the day and accumulate in Alzheimer’s disease. Your brain also reorganizes and recharges itself, ultimately helping to maintain normal functioning.
Getting 7-8 hours of sleep every night is ideal. If you have trouble shutting your brain off at night, you can try the following:
- Turn off all electronics and screens at least an hour before bed.
- Refrain from consuming caffeine past 1PM.
- Meditate close to your bedtime to calm your mind.
- Sleep with an eye mask.
- Use a white noise machine.
- Take sleeping aids such as CBD oil, magnesium, or melatonin.
3. Eat a Healthy Diet
You know what they say – you are what you eat! While we all know that what you eat has an effect on your physical health, it also has a significant impact on your brain health. A diet low in saturated fat and rich in omega-3 fatty acids, leafy green vegetables, and whole grains can help keep your brain healthy.
Studies have shown that individuals who follow a Mediterranean diet, which incorporates a lot of plant-based foods and healthy fats, are less likely to experience cognitive decline and dementia than those who eat a standard Western diet. The heart-healthy DASH diet and the MIND diet, a hybrid of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, can also boost brain health.
Consider limiting your intake of dairy, processed meats and carbohydrates,, and foods high in saturated fat for more vegetables, healthy fats, and organic grass fed or pasture raised meats. This whole food approach to your diet will do your brain a world of good!
4. Stay Social
Socializing is one of the best things you can do for your brain. It helps keep your mind agile and can stave off stress and depression, both of which impact how well your brain functions. Having strong social ties is also associated with lower blood pressure, a lower risk of dementia, and longer life expectancy.
Carve out time to connect with loved ones as often as you can. If you live alone, it is especially important to maintain connections with friends or family so that your brain remains in good health.
5. Participate in Mentally Stimulating Activities
In order for your brain to continue functioning optimally, you need to challenge it. Just like a muscle, if you don’t use it, you will lose it. Brain activity stimulates new connections between nerve cells and may even help the brain generate new cells. This reserve of cells can provide a hedge against future cell loss.
Regularly incorporating mentally stimulating activities like word puzzles or math problems into your routine is a great way to keep your mind sharp. A commitment to life-long learning and trying new things, like learning a new language or cooking a recipe that is outside your comfort zone, can also keep your brain healthy and create new connections in the brain.
Cognitive impairment is a phenomenon that is commonly seen in the elderly, but it is not inevitable. By adopting these practices, you can help maintain your brain function and make the most of your later years!