As the glove emerges from what has been for many a protracted period of inactivity and stress, our minds are undoubtedly changed as well. Just as Dr. James Levine coined the phrase “sitting is the new smoking” to describe the rise in heart disease and diabetes that comes with inactivity, a 2018 study from the University of California discovered that sedentary behavior is also associated with thinning in brain regions critical to memory formation.
Our Brain is Arguably our Most Valuable Organ
When it comes to our entire health, well-being, and way of life, having a healthy brain is essential. It serves as the nervous system’s command center and is responsible for our capacity to communicate, remember, solve issues, make decisions, and live a long and fulfilling life. A healthy brain aids cognition and emotional management in the present, as well as helps prevent functional deterioration as we age.
However, Brain Health is in Decline
In 2021, an estimated 6.2 million Americans aged 65 and up would have Alzheimer’s disease. Unless anything radical happens, the Alzheimer’s Association predicts that number will rise to 12.7 million by 2050. While research is still ongoing, there is significant evidence that making crucial lifestyle changes minimize the risk of cognitive decline.
We all know that exercise is good for our bodies and its benefits, but what does it take to maintain our brains healthy, give them a good workout, and increase our cognitive abilities?
4 Tips for a Healthier Brain
1 – Reduce your Stress
While brief bouts of stress are not harmful to one’s brain function, long-term stress is. Long-term stress impairs cognition, memory, and attention, as well as contributes to anxiety and depression. The overstimulation of the amygdala, which controls our fight or flight reaction, is a typical, transitory response to stressful events that are meant to be temporary. Long-term, chronic stress has been shown to reduce the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning, according to research. It has also demonstrated a link between long-term stress and cognitive loss as we age, including an increased risk of acquiring Alzheimer’s disease and dementia – on top of the known negative consequences of chronic stress on sleep, inflammation, and heart health.
Adapt with Stress-Reduction Strategies
Since we can’t manage what occurs to us, learning and practicing stress-reduction tactics will help us live happier and better lives as we become older, while also benefiting our brain health and cognitive performance. Here are a few important guidelines:
- Mindfulness and meditation.
- Tai Chi.
- Guided Imagery.
- Muscle relaxation that gets better over time.
- Keeping a journal.
- Exercise on a regular basis.
- Making connections with those who are willing to help and support.
- Making an appointment with a therapist or locating a professional.
- Doing something you love.
- Spending time in nature.
2 – Eat the Right Foods
The bacteria in the stomach produce 90% of the body’s serotonin. Serotonin is the primary hormone that regulates our moods and gives us sensations of well-being, relaxation, and happiness. Low serotonin levels support the development of chronic illnesses such as anxiety and depression, which can have long-term impacts on our brain health. As a result, maintaining appropriate serotonin production is critical. This can be accomplished by preserving our microbiota, also known as increasing our gut health and digestion.
Best Practices for a Healthier Microbiome:
- Keeping packaged and processed foods to a minimum.
- Avoiding foods that are high in refined sugar.
- Avoiding items that have been fried in vegetable or canola oil in favor of a healthier alternative such as olive oil.
- Stay away from alcohol.
- Drinking plenty of water.
- Eating a varied diet of variously colored fruits and vegetables.
- Limiting the consumption of red meat.
- Getting appropriate fiber, such as whole grains and legumes.
- Increasing intake of fermented foods such as kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi, and yogurt.
Supplements that Support the Brain
While the diet ought to be able to promote optimal brain health, many of us do not get the right amount of certain nutrients or are unable to absorb as much as we should from our meals. The brain-supporting effects of the supplements listed below have been studied. Before taking any nutritional supplement, always consult with your healthcare provider.
- Turmeric, also known as curcumin, is an anti-inflammatory herb that aims to decrease inflammation in the brain.
- GABA is an amino acid that helps to calm the brain, lowers mental stress, and encourages healthy sleeping habits.
- A good probiotic can assist in strengthening the gut because it produces serotonin.
- Fish oil, flaxseed oil, and hemp oil are abundant in omega-3 fatty acids, which assist give the building blocks for healthy brain cells.
- B vitamins and folic acid aid in neurotransmitter synthesis.
- Vitamin D is extremely necessary, especially during the dark winter months.
According to a study, those with low vitamin D levels have twice the chance of acquiring Alzheimer’s disease.
3 – Sleep Well and Get Plenty of it
Keeping strong brain health necessitates proper sleep hygiene. Regularly, you should get at least seven hours of unbroken, high-quality sleep per night. If you don’t achieve these criteria, your brain’s capacity to think effectively, regulate emotions, manage stress, and balance hormone function will be harmed over time.
Fostering Healthy Sleep Habits
Here are some suggestions for healthy habits that can help you get a good night’s sleep and wake up feeling refreshed each morning:
- Creating and sticking to a calm sleep habit (i.e. meditation or a hot shower).
- Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day.
- Maintaining a dark, quiet, cool, and comfortable bedroom.
- Reducing screen time before bedtime or abstaining from screen use for at least an hour before your bedtime ritual.
- Stopping caffeine after 12:00 pm.
- Avoiding naps.
- Staying away from late-night dinners.
4 – Stay Mentally Active
Treat your brain as if it was a muscle, and exercise it to keep it from wasting away. Our cognition is often harmed as a result of routine. To assist avoid cognitive decline and lower the risk of dementia later in life, it’s essential to keep your brain challenged and occupied on a daily basis.
So here are a few activities you might want to incorporate into your everyday routine. Choose at least two and switch up your practice constantly:
- Take part in strategy games.
- Play Sudoku, crossword puzzles, or word games.
- Learn a new skill, such as how to play a musical instrument or how to make
- Pick up a new language.
- Get a book and read it.
- Socialize with a group of people and engage in fascinating discussions or
We Can Help
Creating a thorough wellness and nutrition plan that supports your mental health might be difficult. Together, as an Integrative practitioner, we can develop a lifestyle plan that will enhance your brain health for many years. Schedule an appointment with us so that we can work together to go forward. Give us a call at 925.280.4442 and ask to speak with one of our nutritionists.