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. Having a healthy brain 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.
If you’re already eating healthy and doing exercise, you’ve already in the right direction in 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.
Factors that promote healthy brain
The most important strategy is to stay on top of your cardiovascular health. You need to keep blood moving 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.
The best way to keep your brain working efficiently is to sleep 7-9 hours a night.
Sleep is the key to resetting the brain, allowing it to heal, and restoring mental health.
During sleep, the brain removes toxins known as beta-amyloid that can lead to Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Walking 30 minutes a day, dancing, and swimming not only keeps you slim and fit, and improves your brain health, too.
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 in 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 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 jogging a powerful tool for relaxing the mind. Physical activity reduces the release of stress hormones like cortisol and norepinephrine.
Doing regular exercise that releases endorphins clears away stress hormones and boosts your mood. The endorphins hormone stimulates the growth of the hippocampus since your brain needs exercise to strengthen it.
Exercise improves your brain 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.
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.
High-energy aerobic exercise, exercises like badminton, tennis, cycling, swimming, and soccer 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.
Activities like yoga, stretching, and other low-impact sports boost your focus while lowering stress levels.
Learn new things and find purpose
Building new skills throughout your life like cooking, playing instruments, learning new card games, or traveling to an unfamiliar place can help your brain be 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 brain through learning and discovery.
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.
Bringing novelty and variety in your activity like doing crossword, sudoku puzzles, and new card games will help challenge your brain.
If you like painting, try a freehand drawing class. Or if you are into music playing 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
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.
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
Chronic or long-term stress rewires your brain since it builds up the part of the brain designed to handle that stress.
These changes in the brain may be reversible for some but may be 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.
- Getting help by reaching out can help you become more resilient which may ultimately protect your brain health.
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.
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 shrinkage. 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.
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 them 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 through regular exercise, a healthy diet, and meaningful relationships.
Food for a healthy brain
Here are some of the best foods to eat for a healthy brain:
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 slow mental decline.
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.
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 are rich in nutrients like protein, choline, and B vitamins. A deficiency of B vitamins is associated with adverse effects on the 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 like oranges, bell peppers, guava, and tomatoes contain large amounts of vitamin C. Vitamin C is essential to prevent brain cells from damage and supports overall brain health. A study found that vitamin C can even reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.
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 are rich in antioxidants, zinc, magnesium, copper, and iron. They need 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 is a dark-yellow spice that has strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, 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.
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 your 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 kidneys.