Your lifestyle has a major impact on your brain health. What you eat and drink, how much you exercise your body and your mind, how well you sleep, how you manage stress, and how you socialize are all critically important for your brain health.
Follow these 6 Pillars of Brain Health
1) Nutrition and Hydration
If you eat smart, you will be smart! Research shows that a Mediterranean style diet rich in green leafy vegetables, fish, whole grains, olive oil, and nuts help maintain brain health(1) and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Following this type of diet includes following the lifestyle as well, which means cooking and eating fresh food, savoring, and being mindful of the taste and enjoying the dining experience with friends and family.
Decreasing intake of food high in saturated fats like processed red meats- hot dogs, sausage and pork, butter, and dairy products will help decrease the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
Eating a diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids, including fish twice per week such as salmon, cod, sardines, and haddock or walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds will help support brain health.
Including a rainbow of colorful food such as blueberries, raspberries, broccoli, spinach, and kale slow aging in the brain due to the high antioxidant content. Using herbs and spices can also help decrease inflammation including turmeric, cinnamon, and ginger
In terms of hydration, avoid sugary drinks as sugar causes brain inflammation. Aim for filtered water and adding lemon or ginger to the water.
is high in brain-boosting antioxidants, and 1 cup of organic coffee can improve memory and decrease dementia.
Your body needs to move! Exercise fosters new brain cell growth and preserves existing brain cells. Exercise improves blood all over your body, especially to your brain. It also stimulates chemical changes in the brain that improve mood, thinking, and learning. Find a daily activity you can fit into your life.
Various ways of exercising include aerobic: focus on 30 minutes 3-5x/week of moderate-intensity, strength- focus on 10 minutes 5x/week of squats, lunges, planks, bicep curls, etc., flexibility- focus on 10 minutes 5x/week, stretching muscles through the full range of motion and balance- focus on 10 minutes 7x/per week of standing on one leg, standing heel to toe, walking on heels and toes, walking backwards and sideways or yoga/tai chi.
[Also Read: Which is the best Exercise for You]
3) Mental Fitness
Just like physical fitness, we should focus on mental fitness. If you don’t exercise your brain, it will no longer be fit. We all have something called a “brain reserve,” which helps your brain adapt and respond to changes. This develops in childhood and strengthens through adulthood.
Continuing to learn, starting new activities, and learning new skills help build and improve the brain reserve. Learning a new skill helps your brain form new connections and strengthen existing ones. You can learn a new language, instrument or start a new hobby like photography.
Playing brain games is helpful, such as crossword puzzles, chess, or card games, which improves reaction time and problem-solving.
[Also Read: How Walking can help your Mental Health]
If you rest well, your brain will thank you. Adequate sleep allows your brain to repair your neurons or brain cells, which will help you concentrate and focus the next day. Sleep is the only time the brain can clear out toxic wastes accumulated during the day.
If you don’t sleep, you won’t remove the waste, which can lead to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Follow a regular sleep schedule by going to sleep at the same time and waking up at the same time, which helps reset our circadian rhythm.
Develop a bedtime routine such as reading a book, listening to soothing musing, or taking a warm bath. Limit screen time 30 minutes before bed, including computers, cell phones, TVs, and tablets.
Bright blue light impacts our melatonin production and makes it more difficult to fall asleep. Sleep in complete darkness by using an eye mask or blackout curtains to stimulate optimal melatonin production. Aim for a total of 7-9 hours of sleep.
[Also Read: Why Proper Sleep Is Important for Healthy Living]
5) Social Interaction
A support system helps reduce stress, decreases depression, and improves intellectual stimulation. Research shows that people with the most social interaction experience the slowest rate of memory decline. Happy relationships and marriages and having a purpose in life showed protective effects age-related cognitive impatience.
Staying physically connected can be more complicated now that we are socially distancing, but technology has made communicating effortless. Set up face time, zoom or skype with a loved one or friend you haven’t connected with in a while.
6) Manage Stress
Stress is almost constant in our life, especially during these challenging times. Stress is inevitable, but how you are in control of how you manage stress. Research shows that regular meditation keeps your brain healthier. Here are some simple ways to help you, destress.
- Focus on the present
- Give your brain a 10-minute break by sitting in a quiet place and focusing on breathing
- Think positively Motivate yourself- say I can do this, I can figure this out, I’m going to be okay.
- use imagery- put a picture of your favourite spot, and when you are stressed, you can look at the photo imagining how it feels, looks sounds and smells there.
- Journal- writing down your stress helps to relieve internal stress.
- Practice saying “no” if you don’t feel comfortable doing something.
[Also Read: How to Destress During Stressful Times]
About The Author:
Dr Chrysanthi Kazantzis is a naturopathic physician and a clinical nutritionist. She is the President of RIANP and she is practising at Providence Wholistic Healthcare where she is accepting new patients via telemedicine. Call 401-455-0546 to make an appointment.