Boosting Brain Health
Occasional forgetfulness happens to everyone at some point in their lives, and although this can be completely normal, it can be quite disruptive to your life. The good news is that your brain is naturally adaptable and has the incredible ability to reshape itself when it comes to learning and memory. You can take advantage of your brain’s natural adaptation to improve your cognitive abilities, learn new things, and boost your memory. Below we’ll discuss some simple things you can do to boost your brain health.
Engaging in regular physical activity has many physical health benefits, and new research is showing that it also has brain health benefits. Research has shown that people that are more physically active are less likely to suffer from cognitive decline, and also have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Try to exercise multiple times a week for 30 to 60 minutes. Engaging in simple, easily accessible activities such as walking, swimming, dancing, or playing tennis that increase your heart rate and get your blood flowing are ideal for boosting brain health.
Keep Your Brain Active
Keep your brain active by engaging in mental activities such as playing cards, crosswords or Sudoku, and puzzles. In order to get the biggest benefit, incorporate different activities each day. Additionally, learning new things throughout your life helps to keep your brain healthy and build new connection among brain cells.
Get Enough Quality Sleep
Sleep is crucial for optimal brain health. Various theories exist as to why sleep is so important, including that it helps to remove abnormal proteins from the brain, and that it helps to consolidate memories, both of which boost brain health. Try to get 7 to 8 hours of undisturbed sleep each night. Undisturbed sleep gives your brain the opportunity to consolidate and properly store memories. If you have sleep difficulties, speak with your doctor to identify and treat any underlying conditions that may be responsible for your poor sleep quality.
Stay Socially Active
Spend time with your family and friends doing things that you enjoy. Research has shown that when you’re socializing blood circulates through various parts of your brain while you listen and engage in conversation. Also, when you’re socializing, you’re less likely to get depressed. Depression has been shown to interfere with optimal brain function. This is especially important if you live alone as research has shown that solitary confinement is linked to brain atrophy.
Stress has been shown to negatively affect brain health. Chronic stress kills brain cells and harms the part of the brain that’s responsible for creating new memories and recovering old ones (the hippocampus), and has also been associated with poor memory. Learning how to manage stress, or avoiding it, is essential for boosting brain health. Here are some tips for managing stress:
- Set reasonable and attainable expectations for yourself.
- Share the way you’re feeling with someone you trust.
- Have a good work/life balance.
- Concentrate on one task at a time.
- Mediate for 10 to 15 minutes each day.
- Engage in activities that you enjoy.
Consuming a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids and nutrients, and low in saturated fat can help to keep your brain healthy. The Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes whole grains, fish, veggies, fruits, and healthy fats including nuts, avocados, and olive oil, while limiting meat, is a good choice for boosting brain health. Research has shown that individuals that follow a Mediterranean diet area less likely to have Alzheimer’s disease than individuals that do not follow this diet. The MIND diet, which is a hybrid of the DASH diet and Mediterranean diet, emphasizes leafy greens and berries, was developed specifically to boost brain health and has been shown to lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
If you’re craving a treat, consider dark chocolate as recent research has revealed that the flavanols in cocoa beans may help to improve cognitive functioning and memory.
Minimize Alcohol Consumption
Drinking too many alcoholic beverages can negatively affect both your brain health and memory. Research has shown that binge drinking (drinking enough alcohol to increase the level of alcohol in your bloodstream to 0.08 grams per ml or more) is associated with memory difficulties. Alcohol is neurotoxic and has the ability to destroy the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory. Reducing, or avoiding, alcohol can help to protect your brain health.
Treat Any Underlying Medical Conditions
If you notice that your cognitive function and memory have taken a deep dive, you should speak with your doctor about your concerns. There are many factors that have been associated with cognitive decline and memory loss including medical conditions (high blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid dysfunction, etc.), medications (allergy and cold medications, antidepressants, etc.), and mental health conditions (depression, anxiety, stress, etc.), that can interfere with normal cognitive function. Identifying and effectively treating any underlying medical conditions that may be responsible for your symptoms can help to boost your brain health.
Boosting your brain health can be exciting, simple and fun. Engaging in physical and mental exercises, getting enough sleep, staying socially active, eating healthy, and decreasing stress in your life can go a long way to improving your brain health, and maintaining your memory.
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