Brain health isn’t the first thing you think about when considering your health and fitness.
But, given that your brain is the most complex organ in your body and is responsible for all human function — maybe your brain health should be a top priority.
Keeping your brain healthy can help prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s — a compelling reason to think about your brain health habits.
What is dementia?
Dementia describes a chronic condition that affects memory, personality, thinking, and reasoning. It’s a general term that covers a wide range of conditions, including Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s is the most well known since it accounts for 60-80% of dementia cases.(1)
Dementia has several different risk factors that you can’t change, such as your age and genetics. Other risk factors, like diet, exercise, and giving up smoking, are within your power to influence.
You have the ability to improve your brain’s performance by implementing a healthy lifestyle. Here are some tips to get you started.
7 Tips for Better Brain Health
1. Join a book club.
Forming good social connections can support good brain health. Seek activities that you enjoy and can share with other people.
A book club is just one example of finding a group of folks that you share interests with. Here’s a few other ideas:
Check out the app MeetUp to find interest groups in your area.
Try volunteering at local organizations, such as food banks or animal shelters.
Get involved with social activities at a synagogue or church of your choice.
Enjoying new activities with your friends and family is a great way to strengthen your relationships. It’s fun and it helps your brain!
2. Minimize screen time before bed.
The best way to give your brain a rest is to get a good night’s sleep. You want to aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
Looking at your cell phone right before bed significantly disrupts your sleep patterns.
Melatonin is the hormone that your body produces to make you feel sleepy. The blue light waves that are emitted from your screen interfere with the production of melatonin, making it harder to fall asleep.(2)
Turn your phone off 30 minutes before bed to improve the quality of your sleep.
3. Keep your heart healthy.
Imagine a tree densely packed with branches and twigs. This is what your brain’s artery system looks like. It is a whole network of pathways to distribute blood to your brain on each heartbeat.
Your brain uses fuel and oxygen from your blood to function.
Taking care of your heart will improve the quality of your arteries, resulting in better blood
flow to your brain.
One of the best things you can do for your heart is to eat a mostly whole-food, plant-based diet. Multiple studies have shown that your risk for heart disease is reduced by centering meals around fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds.(3)
Start by increasing the amount of whole fruits and vegetables to your daily meals.
4. Add some prebiotics to your diet.
Serotonin is a chemical that your brain uses to manage your sleep, appetite, emotions and pain levels.
Did you know that 95% of the serotonin that your body produces occurs in the gut?(4)
This is just one example of the many connections between the gut and the mind.
Taking care of your gut health will also improve your brain’s health.
Prebiotics are fibers found in some plant-based foods. These special fibers are the best fuel to grow a healthy balance in your gastrointestinal system.
Some examples of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains that include prebiotics are:
For even more ideas on how to improve your gut health check out this article here.
5. Take a walk around the block.
Exercise has many brain benefits such as:
Improving learning and memory
Delaying memory decline attributed to age
Protecting the brain against damage caused by a stroke
Assisting recovery after injury
Acting as an antidepressant.(6)
It’s a no-brainer to schedule regular exercise!
I recommend at least thirty minutes of brisk walking each day and weight-lifting twice a week. Remember, you can always start slowly and build up your daily exercise routine over time.
6. Learn Italian.
Learning a language is molto buona for your brain!
But so is learning just about anything — practice piano, build a birdhouse, plant a garden, or take up painting.
Keep your brain active by giving it new challenges throughout your life.
Udemy is a popular app to find courses of just about any hobby you can think of.
Try something new today!
7. Find your Zen.
Stress affects our brains in many ways. Over time, stress can even kill brain cells and shrink the prefrontal cortex--that’s where your memory and learning functions reside!(7)
Practice good mental health by building one or more of these stress-relieving strategies into your week.
Listening to music
Using essential oils
Deep breathing yoga
With so many activities to choose from, you’ll be sure to find something to bring a little calm and peace into your day.
These seven ideas can improve your brain health but, of course, it’s not easy to change your habits from one day to the next.
Lifestyle Medicine is designed to help you make changes that have the greatest impact on your health.
How Can Lifestyle Medicine Help Keep Your Brain Healthy?
Lifestyle Medicine is a branch of health care that focuses on lifestyle changes for optimal health.
According to the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, there are 6 pillars that will improve health. The goal of making these changes is to live a long, healthy life and reduce medications, if possible.
The six pillars of Lifestyle Medicine are:
Eat primarily whole-food, plant-based meals.
Increase physical activity.
Build strong connections with friends and family.
Improve your sleep.
Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol.(8)
All of these healthy lifestyle choices support brain health as well as overall health.
A Lifestyle Medicine practitioner has been certified by the American College of Lifestyle Medicine and is knowledgeable on evidence-based strategies to improve your health and wellness.
Your brain health is linked with the health of your heart, your gut, and your mental wellness.
The good news is that it is not complicated to improve your brain health. The same lifestyle changes that promote good brain health will help you in the other aspects of your wellness.
At Baltimore Lifestyle and Culinary Medicine, we support people on their journey to better health. We provide you with the tools and support to gradually guide you to your optimal health and wellness.
Call us today to set up a free consultation to discuss your main health concerns.
We are here to help you.