Are you concerned with brain health, whether because it runs in your family or because you yourself are experiencing brain fog, memory decline, loss of sharpness, concentration issues?
Well, you’re not alone. Brain health is a subject very close to my heart. As a clinical nutritionist my mission is to help people lead healthier, happier lives full of vitality, energy and optimal brain function.
In the words of Dr Hyman, “Broken Brains” have become an important health concern. They now predict that Alzheimer’s will increase 2 folds between now and 2050.
These are grim predictions but there is hope and actionable steps you can take to keep your brain young.
Here are 10 ways you can help reduce your risk of age-related memory loss and improve your brain health.
1. Get Mental Stimulation
Any mentally stimulating activity should help to build up your brain. Read, take courses, try "mental gymnastics," such as word puzzles or math problems. Experiment with things that require manual dexterity as well as mental effort, such as drawing, painting, and other crafts. Also, actively engage in life long learning, especially things you’re not good at because that’s the part of your brain that needs the most repair.
2. Get Physical Exercise
Using your muscles may also help your mind by stimulating the development of new nerve cells and increases the connections between brain cells (synapses). This results in brains that are more efficient, plastic, and adaptive, which translates into better performance. Exercise also lowers blood pressure, improves cholesterol levels, fights diabetes, and reduces mental stress, all of which can help your brain.
Avoid sitting for long periods. For each hour of sitting, stand up and walk for 5 minutes. Find ways to introduce daily movement in your routine. Find something you love to do and get moving.
3. Get Adequate Sleep
Sleep is a crucial important part of proper brain function.
Make sure you get at least 8 hours of sound sleep per night. Turn off all electronics 1-2 hours prior to your bedtime. Take an Epsom salt bath before bed to induce relaxation and help improve quality of sleep. Do not sleep with your electronic devices by your bed.
4. Improve Your Diet
Good nutrition can help your mind as well as your body. Here are some specifics:
Consume a whole food-based diet
Avoid refined sugars and carbohydrates, processed foods, additives, preservatives and artificial sweeteners
Avoid trans-fatty acids from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils
Aim for a vegetable to fruit ratio of 5:1 and select produce representing all colors of the rainbow
Consume at least 35 grams of fibre daily from a variety of sources to support the gut microbiome, hormone balance and the circadian system
Incorporate healthy fats that includes saturated and unsaturated fats. Our brain not only needs foods containing omega 3 essential fatty acids, such as walnuts or salmon, to relay messages but also healthy cholesterol as our brain is mostly made of cholesterol and cholesterol is also a precursor to many hormones. Avocado, olive oil, coconut, nuts and seeds are all healthy fats to include in our diets
Maintain adequate fluid intake. Aim for 8 - 8oz of filtered water per day
Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening
Limit your alcohol intake. Drinking is a major risk factor for dementia. If you choose to drink, limit yourself particularly within three hours of bedtime
Remember your Bs. Three B vitamins, folic acid, B6, and B12, can help lower your homocysteine levels, high levels of which have been linked to an increased risk of dementia
5. Improve Your Blood Sugar
Blood sugar is a huge player in brain health. Diabetes is an important risk factor for dementia. You can fight diabetes or insulin resistance by eating right, exercising regularly, and staying lean.
6. Implement Regular Detoxification
Implement a regular detoxification to your routine. You will allow for proper elimination of toxins from your body, thus decreasing your toxic load and protecting your brain from such toxins.
Reduce your daily exposure to toxins by cleaning up your food sources, cleaning products, toiletries and environment. Have a look at the Environmental Working Group for some guidance and resources.
7. Manage Your Stress
Identifying your stressors and having a plan to mitigate them as much as possible is a significant step in stress reduction. Creating boundaries and saying no can be powerful tools in reducing stress.
Consider mindfulness meditation, guided imagery, progressive relaxation, or biofeedback techniques such as Heart Math.
Visualization and meditation are also great for the brain by increasing blood flow to our brains, better mood, energy and reduces inflammation markers.
Use calming essential oils such as Lavender. Place 15 drops in the bathtub and soak.
Consume calming teas such as chamomile.
Walk barefoot on grass or sand (earthing) as often as possible.
Get outside into nature daily.
8. Care for Your Emotions
Letting go of toxic emotions and thoughts are all essential to a healthy brain and that’s where journaling comes in handy. A gratitude journal is another great tool to focus on the positive things in your life. Make sure you have a place where you feel heard and safe talking about your feelings. This could be a friend, family member, counselor or therapist.
9. Protect Your Head
You may be surprised to learn that moderate to severe head injuries early in life increase the risk of cognitive impairment in old age. Concussions increase risk by a factor of 10. Wear a helmet!
10. Build Social Networks
Strong social ties have been associated with longer life expectancies. Having a strong community or social network is also essential for brain health.
About the Author
Following a career in law and a move to Toronto, Caroline decided to pursue her true passions, holistic health and helping others. Caroline’s passion for holistic health grew through the years while searching for solutions for her personal health problems. Her personal successful journey towards health and vitality is a testament to the impactful contribution of nutrition. She practices clinical nutrition at VitalityMD.
Using a functional medicine approach, Caroline focuses on uncovering the root causes, the “why”, of your health issues by carefully listening to her clients concerns, looking at the body as a whole, conducting detailed intakes and delivering achievable and customized health programs to restore and maintain optimal health and vitality.
Learn About Caroline's 21 Day Digestive Reset Program