Today’s health mindful consumer thinks a lot about staying fit, eating right, looking young and avoiding chronic pitfalls like high blood pressure and diabetes, but what about brain health? Cognitive function is the core of decision making, memory, comprehension and focus, but for some reason it falls by the wayside for even the most health-conscious individuals.
As the population continues to age, the risk of brain diseases like Alzheimer’s is becoming more and more prevalent as is the need for prevention. Today, 15 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, according to the Alzheimer's Association, and that number will continue to grow without interventions to improve brain health.
The brain is one of the most changeable organs in the human body, so the things you do now will have a big impact on its health later in life. What should you be doing to support cognitive functions and improve your brain power? Consider some ways to make your brain a priority in your healthy living strategy.
Stay Physically Active
The goods news is many of the things you already do to stay well are good for your brain health, too, such as maintaining a balanced diet and regular exercise plan. Staying active in particular is good for the brain, because it improves circulation to provide more oxygen-rich blood throughout your body.
Exercising also promotes the development of nerves, which in turn create more synapses, allowing for better body-brain communication. It reduces your risk of diseases that can impact brain health, too, like high blood pressure and cholesterol — two problems directly linked to dementia.
Eat the Right Foods
Eating right is a critical part of maintaining brain health. Look for foods that are low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Increase the level of vitamin B in your diet, as well, by eating more leafy green vegetables and grains. If you can't seem to get enough fruits and veggies in your diet, then proper supplementation can help.
Vitamins B, folic acid, B6 and B12 bring down homocysteine levels. An increase in homocysteine — a type of amino acid — is linked to circulation problems like inflammation in the arteries and the development of coronary artery disease. That damage impacts the blood flow to the brain and is possibly a key component in the development of brain diseases.
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Keep the Brain Learning
Continuing education is the key to keeping the mind strong. It is important whether you are heading to preschool or the office. Learning is something you should never stop doing because it does exercise the brain in a way that improves memory, creativity and executive functions. At any age, learning how to do something new can help prevent the onset of dementia.
Just like other parts of the body, the brain needs to exercise. Read a book, take up a challenging hobby or do a daily puzzle. These are all examples of brain exercises that stimulate neural activity. Mental gymnastics like logic puzzles or math problems trigger the formation of new neural connections and even the growth of brain cells.
Get the Right Supplements
Dietary supplements provide minerals and nutrients that you might be missing in your diet. The right ones offer clinically proven nootropic ingredients (more often referred to as “smart drugs”) to enhance cognitive function. A proper brain supplement will contain critical brain enhancement ingredients such as:
Bacopa — Bacopa is an Ayurvedic herb used for centuries to enhance memory. A 2010 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology showed that this herb helps preserve memory and protect against Alzheimer’s disease.
GABA — Gamma-aminobutyric acid is a naturally occurring neurotransmitter. It’s sometimes called the “downer” chemical because it’s job to create a sense of relaxation and calm. For brain health, it is said to both stimulate and inhibit certain effects. Overstimulation and stress can lead to an imbalance of chemicals in the brain, essentially switching it to the “on” position, so there is no rest. GABA helps restore that balance, calming the brain and reducing anxiety.
In her book, The Mood Cure, Julia Ross, a pioneer in the field of biochemical rebalancing, states that GABA works like a sponge to remove the byproducts of stress and allow the brain to relax. It works as a natural sedative in ways that improve overall health, as well, such as relieving the need for emotional eating.
Choline — In the 1990s, the Institute of Medicine recognized the essential nutrient choline for its long-term impact on brain health. Choline helps the body maintain cell integrity and an effective signaling system.
Brain health is just as important as low body fat and healthy eating and it’s never too early to start. A few lifestyle changes are all it takes to keep your brain in tip-top shape.