8 Ways to a Healthier Brain
We all know how important good physical health is, but our society tends to take mental health for granted. Keeping your brain fit is essential for good overall health and happiness. here are the top eight things you can do to promote better brain function and keep your noggin in good shape.
Learn new things.
Learning new things keeps your brain strong and healthy and can even stave off dementia. The best learning activities for brain health are those that are challenging and complex rather than rote or passive. Good examples of brain-strengthening activities include crossword, logic, or sudoku puzzles, taking up a musical instrument, or learning a foreign language.
Regular exercise reduces the risk of neurodegenerative diseases as well as slows the course of other brain diseases like Alzheimer's. It also reduces the risk of anxiety and can alleviate depression better than drugs, according to Harvard Health.
Having fun with your friends exercises certain "muscles" in the brain for better health. Socializing promotes sharing experiences, learning, and trying new things, and it improves your emotional health, builds trust, and fosters understanding--all of which can improve brain function.
Eat a healthy diet.
The food you eat has a dramatic impact on brain health. Eat plenty of brain-loving omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish, seeds, and nuts. Vitamins E and C have antioxidant effects on brain cells, and folate can help reduce the risk of a number of brain diseases and developmental disorders. Reduce your intake of saturated fat and cholesterol and keep your calories in check to reduce your risk of mental decline later on.
Meditation offers your brain precious time to process information more deeply and it directly affects the health of your brain, according to a large and growing body of research. Meditation actually changes the brain, including increasing the volume of gray matter and enhancing the connection between brain regions. A study from UCLA found that regular meditation helps to preserve aging brains, and a study from Yale found that meditation increases overall life satisfaction and happiness. Research from Harvard found that meditation can increase cortical thickness in the hippocampus to improve learning and memory and it has positive effects on brain regions associated with regulating emotions. It has also been found to lower brain cell volume in the amygdala to reduce feelings of fear, anxiety, and stress.
Reduce psychoactive substance use.
Psychoactive substances are those that act on the brain and include caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and illegal and some prescription drugs. These substances impair cognitive processes, alter emotions, and reduce focus, attention, memory, and execution of tasks. Reduce your intake of these substances for better brain health. If you think you might have a problem with drugs or alcohol, counseling can help.
Watch your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar.
High blood pressure increases the risk of cognitive decline and high blood sugar can lead to diabetes, which is a major risk factor for dementia. High cholesterol also increases your risk for dementia. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and avoiding smoking can help keep your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar in check.
Get adequate high-quality sleep.
Your brain does an enormous amount of work while you're sleeping. Adequate sleep is essential for optimum concentration, memory, mood, and coordination. While you're getting your zzz's, cerebral spinal fluid moves more quickly through the brain to remove waste, your memories are consolidated and preserved, and daily wear and tear is repaired. A good night's sleep improves overall brain function, while sleeping less than seven hours a night has been linked to memory loss and cognitive decline, and new research shows that it may even affect your risk of Alzheimer's.