10 BRAIN HEALTH TIPS
If you're looking to go the long haul, here are ten ways to improve your brain health.
Any physical activity which powers the muscles improves brain health. Regular exercise increases the flow of oxygen-rich blood to that part of the brain that performs cognitive function (thinking). Moreover, it stimulates the growth of nerve cells and improves the connections between brain cells. The total effect is a more efficient, plastic and adaptable brain. Physical activity also minimizes mental stress, which is healthy for the brain.
Sticking to a healthy diet works for both your body and brain. Swap up an unhealthy diet of carbs, animal protein, saturated fats and sugars for a Mediterranean-style diet - fruits, veggies, fish, nuts, unsaturated fats and plant protein. The reason people who live in the Mediterranean are not at risk of dementia or cognitive impairment that comes with ageing is because of their diet.
DRINK IN MODERATION
Alcoholism is a risk factor for dementia because too much alcohol causes a decline in the parts of the brain that control cognitive and motor functions. The result of this is an impairment in memory, judgment and coordination. In the long term, alcohol abuse can lead to permanent brain damage. If you can't abstain, limit your drinking to one or two drinks per day. Or you can have a glass of wine with your dinner.
While you need to cut down on your alcohol consumption to improve your brain health, you also need to quit smoking. Why? Research has revealed that smokers have a thinner cerebral cortex (grey matter) than non-smokers. The cerebral cortex is what you need for thinking skills such as memory and learning.
PLAY BRAIN GAMES
Your brain needs mental stimulation to stay healthy. Research has proved that brainy activities activate connections between nerve cells and produce new brain cells. And this improves neurological plasticity and creates a functional reserve that prevents future memory loss. Make it a point to incorporate some brainy activities such as chess, Sudoku and puzzles into your pastime. You should also read a lot, take courses or engage in stuff like painting or sculpture that requires mental effort.
WORK ON YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE
High blood pressure in midlife puts you at risk of cognitive malfunction in old age. If you have hypertension, make some changes in your lifestyle. You can exercise regularly, lose weight, switch to a healthy diet, cut down on your alcohol intake and minimize stress to lower your blood pressure.
LOWER YOUR BLOOD SUGAR
High blood sugar levels affect the brain's functional connectivity, which is how the various parts of the brain and brain matter are connected. High blood sugar can cause the brain to shrink. Worse of all, it can lead to small-vessel disease, which limits blood flow to the brain. Here are ways to lower your blood sugar:
- Eat more fibre
- Stay hydrated
- Exercise regularly
- Monitor your blood sugar regularly
- Cut down on carbs
- Reduce stress levels
LOWER YOUR CHOLESTEROL
High LDL (bad cholesterol) is among the risk factors for dementia. It can cause a stroke which prevents blood flow to the brain, causing brain damage which in turn leads to memory loss, and speech and movement impairment. You can improve your cholesterol levels by changing your diet, exercising, losing weight and quitting smoking.
CONSIDER YOUR MENTAL HEALTH
Stress, anxiety, insomnia and depression affect cognitive function because they can impact the state of your mental health, which affects your brain function. Set healthy mental goals to keep your brain healthy - have enough sleep, build strong social networks and try relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation.
COVER YOUR HEAD
Head injuries such as concussions can impair brain function. Always wear a protective covering (helmet) on your head when bike riding or playing sports to prevent them.
Disclaimer: The information shared by this post is for informational purposes only. It is not meant to be professional medical advice nor a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Consult your physician concerning anything you have read here.
By Nana Ama Afoa Osae I Writer I GreatWonderful Team
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