During the course of a day, the average human has about 60,000 thoughts. The health-conscious person spends probably spends time thinking about health and how to make healthy choices. But, how much do they think about their brain health? With all of this thinking going on, doesn’t it make sense to spend time thinking about how to keep our brain healthy? In the information age, our ability to think clearly is more important than ever. And yet, Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are on the rise!
Keeping our brains healthy is a lot like keeping our bodies healthy. Both need three things: food (including water), exercise and rest. Before discussing the 7 healthy brain habits, let’s talk briefly about brain food. The rise of dementia correlates directly with the increase in sugar, flour, and processed food consumption. The evidence is clear on one point – sugar is a brain killer and flour is metabolized like sugar. The single biggest thing you can do to protect your brain is to eliminate or drastically reduce the flour and sugar in your diet. Eating a low-carb diet can help protect your brain and eliminate brain fog. If you’re interested in learning more about the overall health and weight loss benefits of a low carb diet, check out this FREE book offer.
What you do in your early adult years can have major repercussions on the health of your brain. Making good lifestyle choices early on can prevent your cognitive abilities from declining as you age. Staying away from drugs, alcohol, and smoking can mean a world of difference.
While sadly, there’s still no cure for Alzheimer’s, there are a number of ways to help slow down, maybe even reverse, its symptoms by engaging in brain-healthy activities that protect the brain and urges brain cells to become more active and alert.
1. Stay socially active
There’s no denying how fun it is doing activities with your friends, or even going to new places and meeting new people. We are social creatures. When you connect with others, even through a simple smile or handshake, your brain releases the happy hormone known as oxytocin. This elevates your mood, reduces stress and boosts cognitive functions.
2. Step outside your comfort zone
As we age, we become stuck in a certain routine. Adults don’t like trying new things, in general, which could be a reason why our brains start shrinking as we age. As kids, we always enjoyed trying new activities and doing things we’ve never done before, but as we grow older, trying new things makes us more uncomfortable and we fear rejection and embarrassment which reduces brain stimulation and increases cognitive decline.
3. Exercise, eat, sleep
Getting regular exercise comes with a slew of benefits; physical, emotional and most importantly, mental. It can improve mental processing speed, memory while slowing down, even reversing, cognitive impairment.
And exercising doesn’t necessarily mean high-intensity, hours on end, rigorous movements. It could be a simple 30-minute walk, going for a swim, gardening, or doing yoga. The point is to keep your muscles engaged and your blood pumping for no less than half an hour.
Maintain a well-balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, protein, whole wheat, and omega-3 fatty acids. Studies show that there are foods that improve brain health are avocado, olive oil, spices such as turmeric, curry, and ginger, nuts, and berries since they’re rich in phytochemicals which are loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.
They promote good health and can slow the decline in memory function by aiding the metabolism process of glucose in the brain. It also boosts cognitive signals. Drinking 2 and a half cups of blueberry juice or concord grape juice daily for 12 weeks consecutively has proven to prevent, even reverse, cognitive impairment and neuronal functioning.
Most people should be getting, on average, 8 hours of quality sleep each night. If you get less than 7 hours of sleep at night, that could increase your risk of cognitive decline in the long run. What you do in your early adulthood years can have a serious effect on your brain health as you age – it’s all connected.
A review of observational studies carried out in 2014 states that, “healthy sleep appears to play an important role in maintaining brain health with age, and may play a key role in [Alzheimer’s disease] prevention.”
4. Listen to music.
Music engages the right side of the brain, allowing you to focus more on what you’re doing rather than letting your mind wander. It also reduces stress and anxiety. What’s even interesting is that setting words to music improves memory and concentration skills. It also boosts brain processes and can even reverse Alzheimer symptoms.
5. Play games
Your brain needs exercise too to stay young and fit. Mental activities slow down cognitive decline and increases focus and concentration. And now there’s an endless array of mental puzzles to choose from. You can buy them at bookstores, play on your phone or tablet. Even adding up your grocery bill in your head is a great way to keep your brain pumped and alert.
Reading, learning a new language or playing a musical instrument are great examples of activities that keep your brain operating at its best. Another great way to create new brain pathways is to try something new, like taking a different route to work or write with your non-dominant hand. Your brain wants to be challenged, so why not give it what it wants.
6. Change your routine
Each new experience creates new neuro-pathways in your brain. While following habits and routines are good because we don’t have to exert brainpower to do them. This leaves more brainpower to focus on things that are important. However, changing things up is also good for the brain. Also, increased spontaneity has been shown to be correlated with happiness.
7. Reduce or remove sugar and flour
Refined or processed sugar acts like a drug on the brain. In his book, Grain Brain, Dr. Perlmutter shows how the frequent consumption of sugar and flour degrades brain function. Medical evidence shows a much greater risk of dementia in patients with diabetes or who are obese. In fact, imaging studies have shown that the brains of diabetics with dementia look similar to those of drug addicts.
The brain can use glucose or ketones for fuel. During times when the body has less glucose available, the brain draws its energy from ketones or fats. However, excess sugar damages the brain, and flour is metabolized like sugar into glucose. In fact, the glycemic index (impact on blood sugar) of whole wheat bread is greater than eating table sugar.
Have you ever noticed how hard is to get your brain to settle down and think straight after eating something sugary? And then, 30 minutes to an hour later, your brain is in a slump. Reducing sugar and flour intake levels out the energy in your brain allowing you to think clearly for longer periods of time. Totally removing flour and sugar from your diet may be impractical. However, all of us can reduce the amount of sugar and flour we consume. Our brains will thank us for it!
While it’s a normal part of life to experience a slight decline in our mental abilities as we age, we have the ability to slow it down. It’s never too early to start, no matter where you are in life, so you can keep your brain healthy, so you can age gracefully and enjoy every minute of it.
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1 – Perlmutter, David. Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar-Your Brain’s Silent Killers. Hachette UK, 2014.
2 – Publishing, Harvard. “Glycemic Index For 60+ Foods – Harvard Health.” Harvard Health. N. p., 2018. Web. 9 Nov. 2018.