Have you been forgetting where you park your car? Joking about not remembering why you walked into a room? There are over 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia so many of us understand the seriousness, despite our jokes. It is common to worry about our brains as we get older, but your brain wasn’t programmed to lose performance as you age. Does that even make sense? No, your body is programmed for a healthy brain. Are there tips for a healthy brain? There sure are!
There is a lot you can do to help support your brain. You don’t have to ride a downhill slope into mental decline. The body and brain are amazing in their capacity to heal, but you need to make sure they are getting what they need!
Okay, wait… what was your question again? Just kidding! Let’s talk about some smart tips for a healthy brain.
It all Starts with Diet
Your body needs proper nutrition to heal itself, and that includes the brain. What you don’t eat is as important as what you do eat. Avoid processed foods and foods that contribute to inflammation. That means skip wheat, soy, dairy, and any foods on your allergy list. If you don’t know what’s on your allergy list, then get tested!
Eat lots of whole foods including vegetables, fruits, nuts, healthy fats, and protein. Make sure to include foods that are high in omega 3’s because that includes DHA. DHA lowers inflammation, is neuroprotective, and supports healthy aging. This omega-3 has been linked to preventing Alzheimer’s and brain disorders. (1) To get DHA benefits, eat foods high in omega-3’s. For example, salmon, mackerel, herring, chia seeds, and walnuts are good choices.
Don’t Take Statins or Cholesterol Lowering Drugs
You need cholesterol for brain health. I know what you may have heard about the cholesterol and clogging arteries and all the other misconceptions. Forget those or you will be forgetting everything! Cholesterol is critical for brain activity and brain function. Even though the brain is only 2% of our body weight it uses 20% of our cholesterol. Statins can cross the blood brain barrier and reduce the cholesterol in your brain. (2)
Statins have been associated with cognitive impairment like memory loss, forgetfulness, amnesia, memory impairment and amnesia. Therefore, let’s make sure not doing things to artificially lower cholesterol. The research says, people with higher cholesterol have better quality of life and longer quality of life.
Soak Up the Vitamin D
It’s likely that no matter where you live, you aren’t getting enough vitamin D. It’s hard to get enough dietary vitamin D, but the cool thing is that it’s the only vitamin the body can make on its own when it’s out in the sun. The problem is, we spend too much time indoors and not enough time outside. When we are outside, we slather ourselves in sunscreen.
Vitamin D has a lot of functions in the body that keep it functioning optimally, including that brain. It keeps you from being depressed and it protects your brain. One analysis of 1,658 elderly Americans that participated in a Cardiovascular Health Survey found vitamin D deficiency was associated with increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s. (4) Another study in China followed 1,202 elderly for 2 years and found low vitamin D levels were associated with cognitive impairment and decline. (5) The only way to know what your vitamin D levels are at is to get tested. Boost your levels by getting 20 minutes in the sun every day and by taking a quality supplement.
Exercise for Your Brain
While mental exercises are important for building those neural pathways, I’m talking about actual exercise. The Ontario Brain Institute found that seniors who exercise are 40% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those who don’t exercise at all after reviewing more than 850 studies on physical activity and dementia. (6) Sounds like a reason to get out and exercise!
Take regular walks and get some vitamin D at the same time. Find exercise that you enjoy so that you will do it regularly to get the most benefits. Try to mix up your exercise routine to keep it fun and challenging for your brain. Finding ways to test your brain with physical activity will give your brain a boost and you can even do that with daily activities.
For example, one of the ways you can stretch that brain muscle is to do things that you normally do with your dominant hand with your non-dominant hand. So, if you normally brush your teeth with your right hand then try doing it with your left. It will feel weird, but each side of the brain is associated with a different side of the body, so we need to make sure we are doing things to work both sides of the brain.
Use these Tips for a Healthy Brain
Don’t forget these tips for a healthy brain! Your body, and your brain, need your support for healing and aging well. Who wants to forget all that wisdom we have gained over the years? Nobody! Our time is short, and a healthy brain will help each of us make the most of our years.
Written by Dr. Greg Abbott