We all agree that our brain function is critically important. That’s why mental decline is one of our most feared consequences of aging. Brain health and function is often thought of as an unavoidable side effect of aging, but cognitive impairment doesn’t have to be inevitable. Here are nine natural ways to help maintain your brain function:
1. Flex Your Muscles
Regular aerobic activity has been shown to reduce insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, and stimulate growth factors (which affect the health of brain cells and blood vessels in the brain). Studies have even found an association between the size of the hippocampus in your brain and how often you do aerobic exercise. Jogging, swimming, or lifting weights may help you literally increase the size of your brain!
2. A Mindful Diet
It’s no secret that consuming a diet rich with organic fruits and vegetables, legumes, healthy fats, and whole grains can benefit our whole body (not to mention our waistlines) but our diet has a large impact on brain health. Make a mindful choice to include more organic fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, legumes, and whole grains in your diet – you won’t believe the results!
3. Get Sufficient Sleep
A good night’s sleep is important for several reasons, but day-to-day, quality sleep can also impact brain health in the long term. Sleep deprivation over long periods of time in mice has been seen to increase the peptide b-amyloid, which forms the plaque seen in Alzheimer’s disease patients. Additionally, toxic protein aggregates have been shown to be cleared from the brain during sleep, making a good night’s rest even more critical to protecting brain health.
4. Rein in Medical Conditions
Conditions such as high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and high cholesterol have been linked to the formation of amyloid-beta protein, which is a key trigger in Alzheimer’s disease. You can start managing and improving these conditions by adopting a plant-based diet to help improve long-term brain health.
5. Avoid Alcohol
Drinking hard alcohol (such as whiskey or vodka) in excess is a large risk factor for dementia. Consumption of hard alcohol interferes with the communication pathways in the brain and impairs how we process information. It can also lead to mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. In contrast, moderate consumption of wine (preferably organic) and its natural resveratrol have been shown to have positive benefits for brain health. Play it safe – avoid hard alcohol and feel your brain thrive!
6. Social Connections
Our friends not only keep us company and provide a sense of belonging – they may even help us improve our brain health! Studies have associated strong social ties with a lower risk of dementia as well as lower blood pressure and a longer life expectancy. Get out and make some new friends!
7. Stem Your Stress
Mental health is critical in keeping the mind healthy. Stress can cause a chain reaction in the body, triggering the entire nervous system and increasing your heart rate, sensory perception, and oxygen intake. In the long-term, the extra cortisol produced by stress can lead to unwanted health problems, including disrupting synapse regulation and even killing brain cells. Avoiding stressful situations may help maintain better brain health and cognitive function as we age.
8. Practice Mindfulness
Studies have shown that regular mindful practices such as yoga and meditation are proven to help reduce the risk of dementia. These calming techniques can trigger an improvement in verbal memory and visual-spatial memory and may even enhance brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a protein that facilitates the growth of neurons in the brain.
9. Never Let Go of Learning
It’s a common misconception that “brain training” games can help improve brain function. However, these brain games typically only work for the task they train. For instance, practicing short-term recall of colors or shapes has not been proven to have any impact on how well you remember faces and names. Therefore, take up challenging new activities such as playing board games or reading books and newspapers to expand the areas of the brain that are stimulated.