365 days a year we use our heads to make decisions, think back on old memories, or learn new skills. How do you ensure you’re keeping your brain’s health in tip-top shape?
With all the different types of health we’re in charge of managing for ourselves, our brain health may not be on the forefront of our minds. Here’s a friendly reminder that brain health matters too! (And we aren’t just talking about mental health).
4 Different Ways to flex your brain
Just like the different muscle groups control different parts of your body, your brain has different sectors that function in different ways. These can be broken down into four realms of function:
Cognitive Function: all the mental processes that take place - how you think, learn, and remember.
Motor Function: how the body controls its movement and balance.
Emotional Fuction: how one handles emotions (both pleasant and unpleasant)
Tactile Function: how one responds to different types of touch sensations (pressure, pain, temperature, etc).
Tips for Good Brain Health
Stay physically active (Cognitive/Motor/Emotional/Tactile)
Finding a way to maintain 150 minutes of physical activity per week is a great way to improve overall cognitive health. These activities can include keeping up with household chores, maintaining regular activities (that keep and improve your strength), etc.
Staying active may help with increasing energy, prevent or delay heart disease, diabetes, and possibly reduce depressive symptoms.
Keep the mind alert (Cognitive/Motor)
Learning new hobbies, volunteering, and learning new skills are all good ways to keep gears actively moving in the brain! It also plays to one’s advantage to improve engagement with current hobbies.
Being able to stay involved in activities that keep the mind active can benefit self esteem while also reducing stress levels. A bonus could even be increased social interaction!
Manage stress levels (Cognitive/Emotional)
Discovering how to keep stress levels at an all time low would greatly benefit one’s brain health. When life feels overwhelming, it’s beneficial to incorporate exercising regularly, going for a walk, writing thoughts down in a journal, or making a goal to stay positive.
Stress can have impacts so severe on the body that it may change the brain physically, affect memory, and increase the risk of chronic diseases like Alzheimers or Dementia, so steer clear of serious stress!
Be mindful of emotional health (Emotional)
If not managed, well, emotional health may negatively impact the way you think, feel, and react on a daily basis. Listen to your body and be aware of what you’re feeling. Proper care may avoid mental struggles like anxiety, mood disorders, and difficulties learning.
Get enough sleep (Cognitive/Motor)
Pro tip: the brain NEEDS sleep; it’s essential for successful cognitive function. Basic tasks are affected by reduced sleep, let alone long term functioning if good sleep habits aren’t regulated. Anyone over the age of 18 needs at least 7 hours of sleep. This allows your brain to cycle through the stages of sleep and allows your brain to recover and rest.
It helps to put away devices with light-emitting screens before bed, sticking to a nightly bedtime routine, reducing caffeine intake after 2pm, and not eating after 6 pm.
Improve your diet (Cognitive/Emotional)
The type of fuel the body takes in can be a total game changer with how the brain runs! Including more fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, unsaturated oils, and healthy proteins may reduce the chances of developing ailments with cognitive health. Since your brain is mostly made of fat, nearly 60%, healthy fats are key to maintaining a nice plump and healthy brain.
A Mediterranean diet is often recommended to those needing to improve their cognitive health. That means vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, breads, herbs, spices, fish, seafood and extra virgin olive oil. The best part is that brain health usually means some great meals.
A compound similar to vitamin B, PQQ may enhance short term memory and attention. PQQ may also promote cognitive health and memory by solving mitochondrial dysfunction (the powerhouse of the cell) and protecting neurons from oxidative damage.
PQQ in bacteria helps them digest alcohol and sugar, which makes energy. This energy helps them survive and grow. Animals and plants don’t use PQQ the same way that bacteria do, but it is a growth factor that helps plants and animals grow. It also seems to help them tolerate stress. While PQQ is found in foods like natto, green peppers, kiwi, parsley, tea, and spinach.
As long as the desire is there, it is definitely possible for one to improve their brain’s health and function. Basic lifestyle changes such as exercise, socialization, improving diet, and considering supplements to support cognitive health could go a long way. Before making any changes, be sure to meet with your healthcare provider to make sure it’s the best plan for you!