How to Keep Brain Healthy and Active
Tips To Keep Your Brain Healthy
What could be more important than the health and well-being of your brain? From conception to grave, we are worried about our mental performance. Except for that middle bit where we are preoccupied with making money, working, and taking care of our families instead of ourselves, but there are simple, easy ways you can care for your brain health.
Manage Your Stress
Stress is a big deal and can wreak havoc on all aspects of your life and your health. Stress is known to fatigue and seriously degrade the brain and its functions. Stress has an immediate and negative effect on things like concentration, short-term memory storage, and decision-making, but the effects aren’t just short term. Chronically stressed people show slower response time, less brain mass and slower plasticity than there less stressed counterparts.
Make It Uncomfortable
Routine is the unequaled enemy of your brain function; it lets your brain be lazy. You don’t think about it, you don’t think about getting ready in the morning or the drive to work. You probably don’t think about your coffee order or any of the mundane tasks of your job. You don’t have to think about the way you go home or the lyrics of the music you listen to in the car. That is practically all day you go through without a second thought.
Your brain likes lazy, it is why so many of us develop habits good or bad. However, making your brain uncomfortable is an easy and effective way to improve your mental agility. You are effectively getting your brain up off the couch.
Brush your hair or teeth with your non-dominant hand, take a different way to work, go to a different coffee shop, do something other than watch TV after work, don’t use the same treadmill at the gym, whatever. Do something that breaks your routine in practically anyway to keep your brain from getting so lazy.
Brain Health Tips
I like we have covered before, brains are lazy! They only do as much as you make them and let’s face it TV shows and Facebook don’t require a lot of brain power. So do things that make you think harder. Learn a new language, join a book club, even play video games to boost your brains effectiveness in other areas of your life.
There are plenty of games, websites, and apps out there designed to stimulate your brain. So if your lifestyle is a busy one and you don’t know how or where you are going to find the time to learn a new language, make your thinking time part of your screen time.
Make A Run For It
Your brain isn’t the only thing you need to exercise for mental health. Physical exercise is important to your mental health as well. It helps clear stress, increase oxygen circulation and lowers blood sugar for up to 24 hours, all of which are great boosts to your mental faculties. It doesn’t have to be cardio. Any form of exercise that meets the standards put forth by the government will boost your brain power.
Keep Your Health In Check
Regular check-ups with your doctor that screen for common health issues including high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol are all supportive of good brain health. Issues that affect other aspects of your health effect your brain too. It only makes sense, your blood cycles through your whole body and that includes your brain.
Extra trash in your blood complicates the brain’s ability to function. While high blood pressure increase the risk of bursting the delicate and intricate blood vessels in the brain. Regular checks and controlling any pre-existing conditions will help prolong and sharpen your mental faculties.
Key Nutrients For a Healthy Brain
We are coming to realize that food can do so much more than just fuel your body. Food can dictate how we perform in daily activities, predict our future health, and help defend us against the health factors we have no control over like genetics.
There are certain vital nutrients each part of the body needs and several nutrients end up on more than just one of these lists. The brain is our most important organ, simply put nothing else works without it. So here are 6 key nutrients to fuel your brain now and protect it in the future.
Vitamin B Complex
The large subset of vitamins referred to as B vitamins are closely related and largely responsible for metabolic processes in the body. The brain is a disproportionately large consumer of metabolic energy at 20%.
Concentrations of B vitamins in the brain range from 50% more than usually found in the rest of the body to four times the amount, depending on the specific vitamin in question. If you are deficient in any of the B vitamins the metabolic processes in your cells will be disrupted making it harder for energy to get anywhere, including the brain (B Vitamins and the Brain: Mechanisms, Dose and Efficacy—A Review, David O. Kennedy).
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Here is the big one, you knew it would make the list just as everyone else did. So what is the big deal with Omega-3’s? Well, the symptoms of a diet deficient in omega-3 fatty acids include fatigue, poor memory, depression, and mood swings. That just covers the brain’s side of things.
University Of Maryland Medical Centers says that adequate amounts of omega-3’s can have a hand in treating depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, ADHD, and mental decline in general. Humans can only get omega-3’s from dietary sources such as nuts and fish. With the number of Americans diagnosed or being treated for a mental disorder increasing, protecting yourself from these imbalances is nothing to scoff at.
Lower your risk for mental impairment by up to 15% by stepping away from the majority. What?
Studies show about 90% of the population is deficient in Vitamin E. It is not marketed as an instant fix and not commonly added to the typical processed food in America the way vitamins C and D are. But it plays a vital role in your health like helping prevent heart attacks and boosting elastin in the skin. It has also been shown to protect against the effects of stroke and other traumatic events in the brain.
How to Maintain a Healthy Brain
They are a relatively new item on the health and wellness roster. Antioxidants, found in whole plant foods, boast a whole host of benefits for the entire body. Benefits include cellular repair, initiate the body’s natural defenses, heavy-metal chelation, the mass genocide of cancer cells, and reversal of the aging process. However, we are here to talk about the brain, so what’s up?
The mechanism under which antioxidants works, neutralizes free radicals that cause serious damage on a molecular level. Adequate dietary antioxidants can protect against cancers, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and more. More immediately, the Alzheimer’s’ Association says they could improve your cognitive abilities.
Complex carbohydrates fuel brain power as well as all your other immediate energy needs. Studies show your brain functions better and faster when you have adequate amounts of complex carbs in your diet. Carbs just fuel the brain better. Don’t get confused though, sugary, refined, white carbohydrates can be contributing to the decline in mental capacity you are experiencing.
The Cleveland Clinic reports that just like the rest of your body, your brain crashes after a sugar high leaving you worse off than when you started. Your brain is greedy taking 20% of the energy produced during the day; and it is picky. The brain’s food of choice is glucose made by the process that digests carbohydrates.
The center for your body and your health are in your gut. It is where all the nutrients in your body are absorbed and where most of it is processed.
According to Authority Nutrition, for optimal absorption of the other nutrients for brain health, the bacteria in your gut need to be balanced. If it isn’t, then you could be in trouble with mood symptoms like anxiety and depression that could affect focus and cause fatigue. A probiotic to help balance your gut is likely to balance your concentration and your mood.
How Relaxation Supports Brain Health
Are you running around like a chicken with your head cut off? Are you having trouble focusing, remembering little things and feel like you will explode at the thought of having another thing to do? These are all signs of brain overload and burnout.
Both conditions are commonly seen today in the fast-paced, high tech, and stressful world we live in. Stress kills, and too often people ignore their stress levels until it is too late, and they find that the stress had had a major impact on their mental and emotional health and quality of life.
Fight or Flight?
We are all undoubtedly familiar with the phrase "fight or flight" and its significance as it pertains to our bodies' ability to correctly distinguish between situations that are or are not of serious consequence. Meant to heighten our awareness of potentially dangerous external stimuli, the stress response is all too often called upon unnecessarily by our brains being bombarded with everyday stressors.
More so than any period in our history, our collective attention is almost constantly diverted by external stimuli, and there is not much time allotted for the mind to decompress, which it so desperately needs to function properly. In an era where gathering as much information as quickly as possible is overvalued, mental health suffered, as illustrated in the countless millions affected by depression and other mental health issues.
Relaxation is Crucial to Overall Mental Health
In light of this, intentionally finding methods by which relaxation is attained is equally important. Behavioral therapists the world over often incorporate a series of systematic relaxation techniques -together known as Biofeedback-which are intended to gradually reduce psychological anxieties and stressors via breathing and lowering of the heart rate through meditation.
As the name suggests, the recorded heart rate, etc. noted during this therapy is taken into account in terms of how the mind responds in turn. An article by Semantic Scholar details popular methods that have been documented as successfully reducing even severe anxieties, including the aforementioned Biofeedback approach.
“Biofeedback is one of the most useful adjuncts in treating physiologic hyperarousal-both episodic and chronic-seen in anxiety disorders. It has also proved helpful for patients who are learning to reduce fearful anticipation triggers through cognitive/behavior therapies.”
Different things relax different people. For instance, while silence affords some the opportunity to peacefully reflect, music can accomplish the same purpose for other. Each of us is familiar with what does and does not have a calming effect on our minds. The key is to make calming influences a priority, recognizing the importance of facilitating an environment in which our respective brains can thrive.
The Most Effective Means of Relaxing is Sleep
Depriving the brain of sleep also deprives it of the energy it needs to operate optimally, or even minimally. Technically, less than seven hours of sleep in a given night is considered sleep deprivation, and in addition to being linked to other significant issue such as heart disease and diabetes, it drastically affects mental health.
Studies suggest reducing exposure to artificial light from iPads, phones, and television before bedtime in order to better ensure that the brain gets the rest it desperately needs. A Harvard Medical School study cites a growing trend that provides very real dividends to brain health by actively reducing stress that impedes neurological processes.
Stress is the reason behind about 80% of doctor visits, and is the third leading cause of health care expenditures, with heart disease and cancer being first and second. Mind-body exercises, including meditation and yoga help reduce stress and elicit the relaxation response in the body, which helps reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Furthermore, both practices offer numerous mental, emotional, and physical health benefits, helping you to be more well, overall, which supports brain health. Physical health is often dictated by mental health, so it is imperative to remain committed to mental health.
This modern era of incessant texts, calls, emails, and social media updates do not make it easy, but breaking away from it to allow our brains to breathe, so to speak, must be as much a part of one’s schedule as those deadlines and to-do lists. Whatever means you find most helpful, relaxation, both mental and physical, is paramount to living a healthy life.