How to Boost Your Brain Health
While we’re well conditioned in eating properly and exercising regularly for our heart health and immune health, brain health isn’t something we necessarily think about until we reach an age where cognitive ability can begin to falter. But considering its the centre for the nervous system and a hugely complex organ that controls everything from how we move to what we remember, feel and think, looking after our brain should be up there on our list of priorities when it comes to leading a healthy life.
Connect with people
You’ve heard the expression before, but since the brain is a muscle, the old adage of ‘use it or lose it’ certainly applies here. Talking, socialising and learning new things isn’t just good for our mental health, it’s important for the health of our brain too. When we interact with people, blood circulates to different parts of the brain enabling us to listen and formulate responses. Constant learning also helps keep the brain in great shape by constantly creating new connections between brain cells. The more stimulation it gets, the more neural circuits are used, which makes it harder for neurodegenerative diseases to get a hold. Keeping your brain active and stimulated means it will learn to be more plastic, adaptive and efficient as you age.
Get regular exercise
The key reason exercise is so important when it comes to looking after the brain is the increased blood flow that it provides. Boosted blood flow to the brain has shown in studies to help increase the size of the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for memory which naturally shrinks as you age. As well as improving blood flow, exercise can also increase natural brain connections, or synapses, which keep your brain healthy and agile.
Eating a diet rich in omega-3, specifically EPA and DHA, is thought to benefit brain health, contribute to good cognitive function and help preserve cell membrane health and communication between brain cells; studies have shown that low levels of omega-3 can contribute to poor brain function and accelerated brain ageing. Otherwise known as polyunsaturated essential fatty acids, omega-3s EPA and DHA can be found in fish, fish oil and algae (another omega-3, ALA can be found in plant sources like avocado, flax seed and nuts). As some experts believe that conditions such as depression and anxiety may be linked to inflammation in the brain, these fatty acids could also help alleviate some symptoms thanks to their potent anti-inflammatory benefits.
Get some sleep
Good, regular and consistent sleep every night is vital not just for reparative action and resetting your brain but for important brain processing too. In new research carried out by the Rochester Medical Centre in the US, during sleep the brain flushes out a toxin protein called beta-amyloids that build during waking hours and can potentially lead to Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, if uncleared. To give yourself the best chance of getting a good night’s sleep, practise good sleep hygiene and if you’re prone to tossing and turning because of anxious thoughts, try keeping a notebook by your bed for pre-sleep brain dumps. Getting lingering worries out of your head and onto paper can help settle your mind and prepare your brain for a more peaceful night’s sleep.