How to keep your brain healthy

Introduction

Your brain is the most important part of your body. Your brain stores your precious memories and also helps you in day to functioning and solving complex problems. Brain health is more important than other body parts, yet most people are more focused on sculpting the chest, biceps, and abs which is of secondary importance. While eating right and physical exercise keeps your body healthy which directly impacts the brain to be healthy. If you’re already eating healthy and doing exercise, you’ve already in the right direction keeping your brain healthy, particularly for those in old age.

As you age, your brain tends to lose its functionality and it’s harder for your brain to work efficiently. This means harder to focus and remember which leads to difficulties to do daily tasks. By keeping your brain healthy, you can prevent these things from happening. A healthy brain will allow you to able to learn new things in your old age. So mental health is as important as physical health.

Factors that promote healthy brain

Healthy Heart

The most important strategy is to stay on top of your cardiovascular health. You need to keep blood move easily through your heart and blood vessels. The health conditions like hypertension, bad cholesterol, and diabetes impede blood flow to the brain. Which increases the progressive loss of neurons, which may ultimately lead to neurodegenerative diseases.

A healthy, active lifestyle will keep your blood flowing to your brain and avoid neurodegenerative diseases as you age. A study found that those who ate a balanced diet exercised regularly, didn’t smoke, and kept a healthy BMI, had minimum neurodegenerative problems later in life.

Good Sleep

The best way to keep your brain working efficiently is to sleep 7-9 hours a night. Sleep is the key to reset the brain, allowing it to heal, and restore mental health. During sleep, the brain removes toxins known as beta-amyloid that can lead to Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Physical exercise

Walk 30 minutes a day, dancing, swimming not only keeps you slim and fit, and it improves your brain health, too. A study found that exercise helped to score high on tests of memory and problem-solving. Since exercise increases the flow of blood to the brain and increases the size of the brain thus improving memory, which shrinks as you age.

The latest study found that leg workouts may be key to getting the brain to perform better among the physical activity. The researchers found that doing weight-bearing exercise, send brain signals that stimulate it to make new neurons in the brain.

Let’s explore the five ways working out can support your brain.

  • The part of your brain responsible for learning new skills and memory is the hippocampus. When you exercise, your hippocampus size increases. It literally becomes bigger in size. Neurons in the hippocampus become stronger, and connectivity is reinforced because of physical activity. The hippocampus becomes dull as you age. Regular exercise helps it keep and protects it from age-related decline. Just 20 minutes of moderate exertion is enough to stimulate the connection between neurons and the memory-focused hippocampus of the brain. Short spurts of exercise can boost recall. Like remembering where you parked your car. Think about your hippocampus and all the benefit it gets if you do physically demanding exercises in the gym.
  • Many people find taking a walk or jog a powerful tool for relaxing the mind. Physical activity reduces the release of stress hormones like cortisol and norepinephrine. Too much stress makes you feel drained, reduces your cognitive skills, and dampen your brainpower. By doing regular exercise that releases endorphins clears away stress hormones and boosts your mood. Endorphins hormone stimulates the growth of the hippocampus since your brain needs exercise to strengthen it.
  • Another way exercise improves your brain is by promoting your sleep at night. Exercising regularly makes it easier to fall asleep. And deep sleep after exercise recharges you for the next day. Good quality sleep also improves mental clarity, focus, decisions making capability, and process your emotions. Exercise-induced sleep increases your mental capacity and reinforces your memory. Working out not only improves your sleep but also enhances your brain function.
  • Aging can make your brain function less efficiently. However, lifestyle measures can preserve your memory and keep your mind sharp. Regular exercise and a healthy diet can help you keep a healthy brain even in old age.
  • A study found that older adults who exercised regularly and were active consistently outperformed their peers on memory and cognitive skills tests. Their scores were equivalent with other test takers up to 15 years younger. You are only as old as you keep it by taking care of your body and mind.
  • High-energy aerobic exercise exercises like badminton, tennis, cycling, swimming, and soccer increase your heart rate and are great at circulating blood through your body. Aerobic exercise is excellent for boosting your brain health. These movements increase blood flow in your brain with plenty of oxygen and nutrients. Anaerobic exercises like resistance training produce similar brain-boosting results. Other Activities like yoga, stretching, and other low-impact sports boost your focus while lowering stress levels.
Learn new things and find purpose

Build new skills throughout your life like cooking, playing instruments, learn new card games or travel to an unfamiliar place can help your brain healthy by creating new brain cells.

Challenge your brain with more intellectual stimulation to use more neural circuits. And the more circuits you have, the harder it is for neurodegenerative diseases to manifest in your brain.

It’s better to master real-world skills than to play mind enhancement games. Since people improve on the specific tasks in those games that doesn’t really help in real-world situations.

Solving puzzles may not stop cognitive decline, but you need to stimulate your brains by learning and discovery. Learning creates new neurons and promotes brain resiliency which staves off the symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Most brain improvement apps are not effective at staving off dementia because they don’t help in real-world problem solving or reasoning. You would be better off learning a second language because it offers more challenges with social contacts important for brain health.

Introducing a new challenge can help your brain create new pathways that stimulate your neurons and help you keep your brain healthy. By bringing novelty and variety in your activity like doing crossword, sudoku puzzle, new card games will help challenge your brain. If you like painting, try a freehand drawing class. Or if you are into music play a new instrument will help you stimulate your brain and help it against symptoms of old age-related mental health decline.

Things to avoid for a healthy brain

Stress
stress

It’s not uncommon to feel disorganized and forgetful when you’re under a lot of stress. But over the long term, stress may actually change your brain in ways that affect your memory.

Studies in both animals and people show pretty clearly that stress can affect how the brain functions. Scientists have seen changes in how the brain processes information when people experience either real-life stress or stress manufactured in a research setting. Stress affects not only memory and many other brain functions, like mood and anxiety, but also promotes inflammation, which adversely overall health.

Your brain isn’t just a single unit, but a group of different parts that perform different tasks. Researchers believe that when one part of your brain is engaged, the other parts of your brain may not have as much energy to handle their own vital tasks, he says. If you are in a dangerous or emotionally taxing situation the brain is shunting its resources because it’s in survival mode, not memory mode. This is why you might be more forgetful when you are under stress or may even experience memory lapses during traumatic events.

Chronic Stress and brain changes

There is found that chronic or long term stress rewires your brain since it builds up the part of the brain designed to handle that stress, and the part of the brain tasked with other complex thought takes a back seat. These changes in the brain may be reversible for some but may difficult to reverse in others, based on the duration and type of the stress. While stressful childhood experiences may hinder the development of the brain, some people who demonstrate resilience in the face of past childhood trauma may have generated new brain mechanisms to compensate for the situation.

The effect of stress on the brain is known but it’s less clear exactly what stress will risk memory problems later in life. All stress you might experience is not the same e.g. stress before you take a test is different from the stress of a car accident or from a chronic illness. Experiencing more stress is worse, and long-term stress is worse than short-term stress.

How Can You Protect From Stress

Here are some tips that can help you better manage your stress to prevent damaging effects on your brain.

  • Establish control over your situation by focusing on controlling the cause of the stressful situations. Following a routine is good for reducing stress and controlling unpredictable situations.
  • Getting organized to help manage your workload can considerably reduce stress. Create a list of tasks you need to complete. Having a task list can give you a clear endpoint when you are finished doing the task thus reducing stress.
  • Get help by reaching out can help you become more resilient which may ultimately protect your brain health.
  • A life without stress would be good but not interesting since a certain degree of stress is helpful for growth so rather than minimizing stress, strive for healthier responses to stress.
Sugar and the Brain

Brain functions like memory and thinking need glucose to work efficiently since the brain uses glucose as a fuel source. Hypoglycemia, a complication of diabetes lowers glucose levels in the blood, can reduce energy for brain function, and causes poor cognitive function. Your brain is dependent on sugar and it cannot function without it. However, too much of this energy source can also be a bad thing for the brain.

A study in animals found a direct relationship between the consumption of fructose, another form of sugar, and the aging of cells. The effects of glucose on the brain may be the most profound in people suffering from diabetes, a disease in which high blood glucose levels persist for a longer period.

Diabetes can affect the brain’s brain regions that share functional properties due to atrophy or shrink. And it can also lead to small-vessel disease, which can restrict blood flow in your brain, causing cognitive difficulties and the development of vascular dementia.

Addiction and Brain

Addiction affects the brain in many ways. The chemicals in drugs, nicotine, and alcohol once enter the brain can cause people to lose control.

When you develop an addiction, the brain needs the reward of the substance and because of that many people continue using that substance. Long-term addiction can cause brain damage, and can even result in death.

Your brain’s response to addiction is based on factors such as the type of drugs, the frequency, and the stage of addiction. For example, you use cocaine, you will experience a feeling of euphoria. This occurs since cocaine is a psychoactive drug and impacts part of the brain that controls pleasure and control. So, there is a short and intense release of dopamine that causes a feeling of euphoria.

If you abuse a drug, you may continue using it, unless you get help. Drugs may affect the brain as well as the nervous system. Symptoms may include rapid heartbeat, paranoia, hallucinations, and other disturbing experiences. Most people on drugs will continue using it no matter the cost. As a result, individuals can become unrecognizable and can be a real pain to friends family, and society.

Drug abuse can permanently damage the brain if taken in long term, however, recovery is possible if you stop taking the drugs. And do some healthy living practices that enhance the quality of life by regular exercise, a healthy diet, and meaningful relationships.

Food for healthy brain

You are what you eat. Eating the right foods to keep your brain healthy is crucial since it can dramatically decrease your risk of developing brain-related problems. Here are some of the best foods to eat for a healthy brain:

fresh juice
Nuts

Nuts are amazingly healthy with antioxidants and vitamin E which is beneficial for both the brain and heart. Walnuts, in particular, contain omega-3 fatty acids that further improve brain function. In fact, nuts improve cognition, sharpen memory, and slows mental decline.

Leafy Greens

Leafy greens such as broccoli, spinach, and cabbage contain various nutrients such as vitamin K, folate, iron, and beta carotene. Vitamin K is needed to create brain cells and has been linked to improved memory.

Fatty Fish

Fish such as Salmon, and trouts contain healthy amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Your brain is composed of 60% fat containing omega 3s and is essential in the production of new brain and nerve cells. Deficiencies in omega 3 fatty acids can severely affect brain functioning causing learning issues, dementia, and memory problems.

Eggs

Eggs are rich in nutrients like protein, choline, and B vitamins. Deficiency of B vitamins is associated with adverse effects on brain land those who are deficient are at more risk of depression and anxiety. Your body uses choline to create the neurotransmitters responsible for many activities of the brain like signaling, memory, and learning.

Fruits

Fruits like oranges, bell peppers, guava, tomatoes contain large amounts of vitamin C. Vitamin C is essential to prevent brain cells from damages and supports overall brain health. A study found that vitamin C can even reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.

Blueberries

Blueberries have both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects which actually reduce the risk of brain aging and neurodegenerative disease. Furthermore, antioxidants stimulate the brain cells and help them protect from stress.

Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds are rich in antioxidants, zinc, magnesium, copper, and iron. The needs these nutrients for signaling and proper functioning.

Tea and Coffee

Caffeine in tea and coffee boosts brain function and improves alertness. Green tea contains the amino acid L-theanine which increases neurotransmitter activity.

Turmeric

Turmeric is a dark-yellow spice has strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory property, it can even pass through the blood-brain barrier to enter the brain directly. Turmeric is linked with improved memory and the growth of new brain cells.

Conclusion

Leading a healthy lifestyle has a huge impact on your brain health. Your eating habits, exercise, sleep, socializing, and how you manage your stress, etc. affect your brain health in long term. Fortunately, we know these factors that put you at a higher risk for cognitive decline. If you choose a healthy lifestyle early can prevent or lower their risk of cognitive disorders such as dementia, Parkinson’s Disease, or Alzheimer’s disease. This is why it is paramount to take care of your brain as much as you take care of your body parts like the heart, lungs, and kidney.

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