5 Ways to Improve Your Brain Health

Early brain research found that there wasn’t much you could do as an adult to improve brain health and cognitive function. Most believed that brain development took place in early childhood and that once you reached a certain age you just worked with what you had.

Now we know that’s not true. While the brain is most plastic and ripe for learning and growth in the early years, the brain never stops working to create new pathways, connections, and new brain cells.

Five ways you can improve your brain health starting today

1. Feed your brain the right food

A healthy, balanced diet is ideal for a healthy body and brain, but there are some specific foods that pack an extra punch in the big brain department.

Oily fish like salmon, herring and sardines are great. Blueberries, nuts and seeds, and green leafy vegetables are also beneficial. Coffee is a good neuroprotectant, as is green tea.

Avoiding excess sugar and overly processed foods is just as important. Too much sugar and some additives increase inflammation throughout the body, including the brain, and can contribute to cognitive decline and dementia.

2. Get enough sleep

Sleep deprivation is common in today’s overstimulated, anxious and busy society. Burning the candle at both ends is often seen as noble and productive, but the result is chronic sleep deprivation and burnout. Over time, you deprive the brain of valuable downtime it needs to process information and recover. While you sleep, your brain stores new knowledge and gets rid of toxic waste. When you don’t get enough sleep, you don’t give your brain a chance to archive and store new information.

3. Don’t stop learning

Constantly learning new things helps your brain stay young and sharp. Your brain thrives on new experiences and stimulation.

Learning a new language or a musical instrument are two powerful ways to stimulate your brain. You don’t need to be fluent or fluent, just the act of learning something new is helpful. Other activities you can try include learning new games, playing skill games, participating in brain-building games, and being exposed to new experiences and things, such as art, music, culture, and new environments.

4. Maintain social support and interaction

Healthy, frequent social interaction is vital to your brain health. Regular social contact stimulates the release of neurochemicals and helps keep your brain sharp. Multiple studies of older adults who have excellent cognitive function compared to many of their peers have one thing in common: an active social life. One such study noted that increased social contact at age 60 was associated with a 12% lower risk of dementia later in life.

5. Exercise regularly

One powerful way to keep your brain healthy is through exercise. Lack of exercise, poor diet, insufficient sleep and stress are all factors that can affect your brain function. If you are sleep deprived, stressed, and not eating right, you will experience forgetfulness.

Exercise improves circulation, relieves stress and helps you sleep more soundly. This has a huge advantage and can help prevent mild symptoms of cognitive decline.

Walking is great exercise, as is cycling and outdoor activities such as kayaking, hiking, climbing, etc. Weight training is also good.

A surprise winner when it comes to brain health is the squat. This bodyweight strength training exercise has been shown to have a significant impact on brain health. A recent article published by the BBC cites research by Professor Damian Bailey of the University of South Wales.

His studies show that squatting affects the brain because the change in gravity causes your blood vessels to work harder to maintain balance. This buffering action causes the vessels to release molecules that stimulate new connections and new cells. A recent BBC article cited research by Professor Damian Bailey of the University of South Wales.

How often and how many squats for brain health?

So how much time should you devote to this brain-building exercise? Not as much as you think. Doing three minutes of squats three times a week gives you the boost you need to keep your brain healthy. It’s easy to incorporate squats into your current routine if you’re not already doing them. Not only that, but squats are great for building strength and giving your lower half a toned look.

Ideally, this is with other physical activity and proper nutrition. But it’s good to know that just a few minutes a week of squats can dramatically improve and protect your brain health.

If you’re just getting into fitness to take care of your body and mind, it’s a good idea to start slowly. It’s important for exercises like squats to perfect your form and focus on quality over quantity. You can upgrade from there.

It’s never too early or too late to improve your health. Avoiding sugar and processed foods, getting plenty of sleep, and exercising regularly are good ways to stay fit and healthy for years to come. It’s never too early or too late to protect your brain.

References:

“Association of Social Contact with Dementia and Cognitive Ability: 28-Year Follow-up of the Whitehall II Cohort Study” by Andrew Somerlad, Severin Sabia, Archana Singh-Mannucks, Glynn Lewis, and Gill Livingstone, 2 Aug 2019. PLOS Medicine.
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1002862

“Late-Life Social Activity and Cognitive Decline in Old Age” by Bryan D. James, Robert S. Wilson, Lisa L. Barnes, and David A. Bennett, 8 Apr. 2011, Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society.
DOI: 10.1017/S1355617711000531

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