Brain health is so important, and we often see that even what are very mild forms of trauma can impact our memory and cognition for years to come. We are just really starting to gain a more in-depth picture of how certain events in our lives affect our brain health.
For example, we’re starting to learn more about how even mild concussions in children can affect their brain health over the years, and even how factors such as diet affect our likelihood of developing brain-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s. While there are some things that may unpreventable or unavoidable, there are also steps we can take to keep our brains healthier over time and reduce the likelihood of brain-related diseases including:
Manage Your Blood Pressure and Heart Health
You need to keep your blood pressure under control and think about your heart health for a variety of reasons, including to keep your brain as healthy as possible.
If you have high blood pressure or vascular health risks, you may have less gray matter in your brain. Gray matter is where our neurons are housed, and if we have problems with neuron impairment, it can slow down our processing and reactions. There’s also white matter in our brain, and if you have vascular risk factors, then that can be affected as well. White matter in the brain is linked to complex thinking and the areas of the brain linked to dementia. Eat a heart-healthy diet such as fresh berries, fatty fish and fruit. Try to cut down on foods high in sodium like take-out meals, meat, cheese and frozen meals which can increase blood pressure. Check your own blood pressure on a regular basis if you’re at risk, and know that high blood pressure is now considered anything greater than 130/90.
Watch Your Diet
This was briefly touched on above, but what you eat plays a role in the health of your brain. One of the best general types of brain foods is fatty fish. Fatty fish is packed with omega-3 fatty acids and includes salmon and trout. Your brain uses omega-3s to build brain and nerve cells.
Having a morning cup of coffee can give you a brain boost, and turmeric is a spice you should try to include in your recipes as much as possible. Turmeric’s active ingredient curcumin may help clear amyloid plaque, which is one of the defining characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease. Turmeric may also help with symptoms of depression by boosting dopamine and serotonin, and there’s some evidence it can play a role in the growth of new brain cells. Other brain-boosting foods are dark chocolate which contains flavonoids that may help protect the brain and pumpkin seeds which can protect the brain from free radical damage.
Have Your Vitamin D and B12 Levels Checked
Vitamins D and B12 are pivotal in the health of your brain. Your brain has many vitamin D receptors, and they can help break down the amyloid plaque that is seen with Alzheimer’s. There has also been research showing that when a person’s body has trouble absorbing B12, it can be linked to neurological disorders. If you aren’t sure about your levels, your doctor can check them and then make supplement recommendations, if needed.
Give Your Brain Exercise
As we get older, our brains may experience natural declines, but as with your body, you can slow or combat this by exercising your brain. Reading, writing, and attending plays or lectures can be good for your brain. Work to learn a new language, enroll in a course, or do memory exercises. Socializing is also good for your brain and having a thriving social life can reduce your risk of developing dementia. Social connections help keep your brain connections strong.
Deal with Stress in Healthy Ways
If you’re depressed, anxious or overly tired, it can affect your cognitive function, and these effects may be cumulative over time. You should try to get plenty of sleep and have time for relaxation. Do things you enjoy to combat mental fatigue and anxiety and work on positive thinking. There is a growing body of research showing that when you have poor physical health, it can be linked to deteriorations in your brain health. Many of the things you need to do to keep your brain healthy and strong are the same things you should do to maintain your physical health such as having a good diet, keeping your blood pressure down, and being engaged with the world.