Whether you’re thinking, remembering, feeling, or moving, your brain controls everything you do. Like any organ, your brain must be cared for to stay healthy.
To improve brain health, you can do many physical and mental things. Check out these 11 evidence-based tips:
1. Exercise regularly.
Your heart, body, and brain all benefit from exercise. In addition to improving blood flow to the brain, it may also help to prevent cognitive decline. Several studies show that physically active people are less likely to lose their mental function and are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
Try to exercise between 30 and 60 minutes several times per week. You can walk, swim, or play tennis to increase your heart rate. However, any other moderate aerobic activity works.
2. Keep your brain in shape.
Maintaining your brain health is just as important as exercising your body. Health experts recommend brain training with real-world activities instead. Further, brain exercises should be challenging and novel.
“Almost any silly suggestion can work,” says Dr. David Eagleman, a neuroscientist at Stanford University’s Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute and adjunct professor of psychology and population health. “Drive home via a different route. Brush your teeth with your opposite hand. The brain works through associations, [which is why it’s easier to memorize lyrics than trying to remember the same words without music], so the more senses you involve, the better.”
Furthermore, if you have a morning newspaper, you should start there. “Simple games like Sudoku and word games are good, as well as comic strips where you find things that are different from one picture to the next,” explains John Morley, MD, professor of geriatric medicine at Saint Louis University.
For sharpening your mental skills, Dr. Morley recommends the following exercises in addition to word games:
- Test your recall, like memorizing your grocery list.
- Learn something new, like playing an instrument, a new language, or cooking a new type of cuisine.
- Do math in your head instead of using a calculator.
- Draw a map from memory.
- Refine your hand-eye coordination through racquet sports, tai chi, knitting, drawing, painting, or playing video games.
3. Consume a healthy diet.
Lean protein, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are essential to a healthy brain diet. Keeping a healthy weight also means limiting processed foods, sugary drinks, and unhealthy fats. Memory, concentration, and mood can all be improved by eating a healthy diet.
Study results show that people who follow a Mediterranean diet closely have a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease than people who do not. However, it will take more research to determine which foods help the brain function best.
Nonetheless, omega-6 fatty acids found in extra-virgin olive oil and other healthy fats are essential for cellular function. In older people, they prevent coronary artery disease, increase cognitive function, and slow cognitive decline.
4. Get enough sleep.
A lack of sleep can lead to reduced concentration and memory. Sleep is thought to boost your overall memory and brain health by clearing abnormal proteins from your brain and consolidating your memories.
It is recommended that adults sleep between seven and nine hours a night to maintain their cognitive peak. It is best to get uninterrupted sleep per night rather than fragmented sleep over several hours. Your brain can consolidate and store memories more effectively if you sleep consecutive hours.
5. Become stress-aware.
Mental and physical health, as well as your brain, can be adversely affected by stress. Spend time with loved ones, exercise, or find healthy methods of managing stress.
In particular, daily meditation can reduce stress and anxiety by relaxing your body, slowing your breathing, and calming your mind. In addition, it may boost your brain’s ability to process information and fine-tune your memory.
Keeping socially active can prevent depression and stress, two contributing factors to memory loss. If you live alone, try to engage with family, friends, and others.
What’s more, the effects of solitary confinement on the brain may be reversed if you keep socially active. Solitary confinement is linked to brain atrophy, so staying socially active may help to keep the brain healthy.
Schedule time in your calendar for friends and family, and be active in your community.
7. Be altruistic.
A selfless act of altruism can positively affect an individual’s physical and mental health. There are various benefits from this, according to the Cleveland Clinic. This includes lower blood pressure, increased self-esteem, lower depression rates, lower stress levels, and even longer life and greater happiness.
Of course, giving back isn’t just limited to volunteering or making monetary donations. An ‘act of service’ could be walking your neighbor’s dog, going to the grocery store for your grandparents, or babysitting for your best friend.
8. Reduce your blood pressure and cholesterol.
The risk of cognitive decline increases with high blood pressure. There is also an association between dementia and high LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels. By making simple lifestyle changes, you can keep your blood pressure as low as possible and your cholesterol as low as possible.
To improve both, you must eat right, exercise, control your weight, limit alcohol consumption, and quit smoking. You can ask your doctor for help making changes to support a healthier lifestyle.
9. Keep your blood sugar under control.
The body’s insulin levels can diminish your brain’s performance — even if you’re not diabetic. Some researchers have speculated that insulin resistance may be a precursor to Alzheimer’s if the body consistently produces high insulin levels over time.
A low level of insulin, or a stoppage of insulin production by the pancreas, may also impair memory. Researchers at Brown University found that insulin-resistant rats were more likely to become disoriented and have difficulty navigating mazes.
What can you do to keep your blood sugar stable? Don’t skip meals or binge — and eat carbs at low glycemic levels.
10. Protect your head.
Harvard Health reports moderate to severe head injuries increase cognitive impairment risks — even without a diagnosed concussion.
11. Schedule fewer meetings.
Meetings aren’t just the most major productivity drain. Your IQ can also be lowered by them.
Meetings have been shown to lower the IQ of attendees in a study conducted by the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute. To be fair, this is true for any group setting, like brainstorming sessions, jury deliberation, or collective bargaining sessions.
The reason? A person’s IQ is believed to be affected by social feedback. So if you’re on your own, you’d seem smarter than if you were in a group.
While there are times when meetings are inevitable, here are some pointers to tame meeting overload:
- You should declare “calendar bankruptcy.” To start, get rid of all one-on-ones and recurring meetings. Then you should only add back what’s really needed.
- Organize a company-wide “No Meetings Day.”
- Block out one day for all of your meetings.
- Avoid scheduling meetings during peak productivity hours. Those slots should be reserved for tasks with greater meaning.
- Always have an agenda and goal.
- Keep meetings short and sweet — ideally under 30 minutes.
- Get regular checkups with your doctor. If you do this regularly, you can detect any potential health problems early on, including those that may harm your brain.
- Take a brain health supplement. There’s evidence that omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and ginkgo biloba support brain health.
- Consider cognitive training programs. It is possible to improve cognitive function by using computer-based programs. It is still unclear whether these programs are effective over the long term.
If you have concerns about your brain health, speak with your doctor. They can help you design a personalized plan to maintain brain health and prevent cognitive decline.
What affects brain health?
Brain health is affected by many factors, including:
- Physical health. Healthy eating, regular exercise, and enough sleep can help maintain good physical health.
- Mental health. It is common for stress, anxiety, and depression to negatively impact brain health. In order to maintain good mental health, you need to manage stress in a healthy manner.
- Social health. Social isolation and loneliness can also affect brain health. As such, maintaining a strong social network is essential.
- Environmental factors. When the brain is exposed to toxins like lead and mercury, the brain can be damaged. It’s best to reduce these toxins as much as possible.
- Genetics. A person’s genetics may increase their risk of developing brain health problems. People can still do a lot despite genetic risk factors to protect their brain health.
How can I improve my brain health?
Among the things you can do to improve your brain health are:
- Get regular exercise. Exercise most days a week for at least 30 minutes at a moderate intensity.
- Eat a healthy diet. Incorporate fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into your diet.
- Get enough sleep. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night for adults.
- Manage stress. Practicing yoga, meditation, or exercise can be healthy ways to manage stress.
- Stay socially active. Maintain regular contact with family and friends.
- Avoid alcohol and drug use. Drugs and alcohol can damage the brain.
- Keep your head protected. You should wear a helmet if you participate in activities that could lead to head injuries, like biking or skateboarding.
What are some signs of declining brain health?
The following are some signs of declining brain health:
- Memory changes. You might be unable to remember recent events, appointments, or names.
- A change in thinking. Making decisions, concentrating, or solving problems might be difficult.
- Mood changes. You may feel more anxious, depressed, or irritable.
- Behavior changes. Symptoms may include forgetfulness, disorientation, or wandering.
It is essential to talk to your doctor if you see any of these signs. Early diagnosis and treatment can slow their progression in many brain health conditions.
Is there anything I can do to prevent brain health problems?
It is impossible to prevent all brain health problems. However, there are some things you can do to reduce your risk, such as:
- To improve the health of your brain, follow the tips listed above.
- Understanding the signs and symptoms of brain health problems. By identifying any problems early, you will be more likely to be able to treat them effectively.
- Discussing brain health with your family. It’ll bring everyone’s attention to brain health and help them protect it.
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