A healthy brain is essential to life.
It allows you to live an active, productive, happy, and meaningful life. It enables you to act, think, and live fully.
An impaired brain undermines your ability to stay in control of other bodily functions. It also undercuts your capacity to effectively comprehend your surroundings and interact with the people around you.
You need to take care of your brain — to keep it healthy, to reduce the risk factors that adversely affect it, and get the best out of it even as you advance in age.
What are the best ways to keep your brain healthy?
You need to eat well to get the energy and building material that your body needs. You need to nourish your body to protect it against diseases. What some people still don’t understand enough is the effect of nutrition on mental functions.
There is exciting evidence that eating the right kind of food helps enhance mental function. You can sharpen the mind, enhance memory, and boost cognitive function and alertness with proper nutrition. Eating well also helps reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and other neurodegenerative diseases associated with aging.
Eating well means including food that are rich in brain-boosting compounds like omega 3 fatty acids, Vitamin E, flavonoids and other antioxidants, and B vitamins.
Eat fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are good sources of phytochemicals, minerals, and vitamins that help strengthen memory.
Collards, spinach, broccoli, and kale are rich in folate, lutein, Vitamin K, and other nutrients that boost cognitive function. Artichokes, peas, oranges, and beets are also particularly helpful for enhancing mental alertness.
Include Omega 3 fatty acids-rich foods in your diet
Research shows that healthy unsaturated omega 3 fatty acids help to bring down beta-amyloid, a protein found in the blood associated with the formation of damaging brain clumps. Healthy fatty acids also help to strengthen memory and concentration and to slow down cognitive decline.
Get your omega 3 fatty acids from fatty fish like cod, salmon, Pollack, and tuna. You can also get healthy oils from sources like walnuts, olives, avocados, and flaxseed.
Have some berries
The natural plant pigments flavonoids are responsible not only for the brilliant hues of berries; they also help enhance memory. Including blueberries and strawberries in your diet may help delay the decline of memory even as you grow older.
Take coffee and tea
The caffeine in tea and coffee helps to do more than just wake you up in the morning. It also helps improve short-term concentration, strengthen mental function, and boost memory.
Include lean meat and other protein and iron-rich food sources in your diet
Your brain needs protein and iron to prevent mental fatigue and boost cognitive performance. Include oysters, beef liver, chicken, lean beef and pork, and dark-meat turkey in your diet.
Keep your heart healthy
Anything that prevents the brain from getting a healthy supply of blood contributes to making the brain cells weaker. This includes arterial plaque. If you want a healthy brain, you also need to see to it that your heart remains healthy.
This means limiting your consumption of foods that are high in sodium, cholesterol, and fat. Sodium tends to increase blood pressure, one of the primary factors for stroke. Cholesterol and saturated fat, on the other hand, tend to block the arteries, which may also trigger a stroke.
To enhance heart and brain health, limit your consumption of fast food and highly processed foods. Avoid saturated fats, sugars, and other compounds that tend to weaken brain cell structures. Watch your weight to prevent obesity and the premature cognitive decline associated with it.
Stay physically active
Regular exercise helps form, maintain, and increase muscle. It also helps the blood vessels increase the supply of blood to the brain and, as a result, to boost cognitive function.
Physical exercise keeps the brain healthy both directly and indirectly.
Exercise helps to reduce inflammation, to prevent insulin resistance, and to stimulate the production of brain chemicals – factors that help the brain produce new brain cells and keep them healthy.
Exercise elevates moods, reduces anxiety, and makes you sleep better. As a result, you avoid problems usually associated with cognitive impairment.
Research suggests that regular exercise helps to increase the size and strength of the medial temporal cortex and the prefrontal cortex, regions of the brain affecting memory and thinking.
When you do things to keep your heart healthy, you also keep your brain healthy. When you engage in aerobic exercise to keep your heart strong, you also give your brain a boost.
Keep your heart and brain healthy by engaging in moderate-intensity exercises on a regular basis. Walk, climb stairs, swim, dance, play squash or tennis, or bike. When you rake the leaves, wash the windows, mop the floor, or do similar household chores, do them with enthusiasm so you break into a light sweat and get you heart to pump actively.
Exercise helps you beat stress and look at things from a more positive viewpoint. It stimulates the brain produce more endorphins or what people refer to as the “feel-good” chemicals. It is not surprising the people who are in great shape physically also tend to demonstrate greater emotional strength and mental agility.
It is hard to give up smoking. However, if you don’t give it up, you increase your risk of Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, dementia, and heart disease. Stop smoking and you keep your brain strong, sharp, and healthy.
When you drink too much, you affect certain parts of your brain.
Alcohol affects the frontal lobes – and you find it hard to make prudent decisions and choices. You lose control of your resolve and emotions and tend to over share or engage in risky or inappropriate behaviors.
Alcohol also affects the amygdala, the part of the brain that is responsible for “fight or flight’ behaviors. It weakens your perception of what is risky or dangerous. You lose your self-control, become inappropriately bold, and could not care less about the consequences of your behavior.
Alcohol also affects the hippocampus, the part of the brain that helps you remember things. This is why people who drink too much often can’t remember their actuations the night before.
Drinking too much alcohol on a regular basis can lead to long-term problems. It can compromise the dendrites, the branch-like tips of the brain cells, and lead to brain-related problems like confusion and memory problems. It also increases the risk of dementia.
Stay in touch with other people
Having meaningful relationships helps keep the brain healthy. A person who shuns human interactions and isolates himself from other people runs the risk of premature cognitive decline.
Get restful high-quality sleep
Sleeps gives your body and brain the time they need to take respite and repair whatever damage the toil of daily life inflicts.
When you are sleep-deprived, you find it difficult to focus and function effectively. You find it difficult to pay attention, make decisions, solve problems, and think competently. If you want to perform at your cognitive peak, get about 7 to 9 hours of sleep every day.
Learn how to manage stress
Stress apparently undermines the ability to think and reason well. Students who are depressed, mentally exhausted, sleep-deprived, or anxious tend to do poorly on tests measuring cognitive function. If you want to remain mentally fit and healthy, find helpful and practical ways to reduce and manage stress.
Decompress from daily stress. Slow down. Meditate. Research shows that people who find means to relax and calm the mind are better able to find solutions to problems. They show better concentration. They have better recall. They are more efficient at problem solving.
There is a variety of helpful ways to reduce stress. Meditation, visualization, affirmation, and yoga help calm the mind. These practices help to ease the tension in both your mind and body and promote optimism, emotional well-being, and self-confidence.
Give your brain the stimulation that it needs
Mental activities promote the generation of new brain cells. They also stimulate the brain to build up a functional reserve so that the nerve cells do not quickly deteriorate with age.
Keep your brain active. Stimulate it by engaging in activities like reading, taking online courses, and solving math problems and word puzzles. Paint, draw, and do crafts. Visit new places. Experiment with new cuisines. Learn new skills. Any activity that requires mental effort, mental gymnastics, and manual dexterity helps to keep your brain healthy and sharp.