As we age and the fear of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease becomes more prevalent, we become much more concerned with the condition of our brain and how to keep it intact; however, a good brain regime should start at a young age and be maintained throughout our lives.
Our brain is the command center for our nervous system. It has the physiological task of receiving information from our body, interpreting it and guiding it to a response. Our brain helps perform vital operations like breathing, maintaining blood pressure, and releasing chemicals and hormones that affect our mood and much more; therefore, it is imperative we focus on proper care and treatment.
Maintaining brain health requires:
- Nutritious food and vitamin intake
- Proper rest
- Continuous mental stimulation
During the aging process, we start to experience a mental decline created from altered connections among our brain cells. Research has shown several ways to help our brains increase vitality, build reserves of brain cells and create new connections.
5 Keys To Maintain A Healthy Active Brain
1. Continue To Learn
It is important to engage in mentally stimulating activities daily. Be sure to change up activities with a variety of different stimuli so the brain continues to be intellectually challenged. Crossword puzzles are a good choice but not enough.
Keep our minds in a constant state of learning by exposing it to new stimulation. Remember, by using our memory we will keep it sharp.
Suggestions for brain stimulation:
- Video games
- Play games
- Memory exercises
- New language
- Enroll in a college course
- Listen to TED Talks, attend a lecture, and continue to learn
- Learn daily a new word and spell words visualizing first
- Finger dexterity (musicians, build something, knitting etc.)
Robert S. Wilson, a professor of neurological and behavioral sciences at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, points out the fact that social interaction is also an intricate part of mental heath and happiness. People who are socially more active versus people who become isolated, will cognitively age better.
- Take a class in a community college, recreation center etc.
- Join an exercise group (yoga, running)
- Join a meet-up group with similar interests
- Surround yourself with positive friends and family
When we exercise, our body releases endorphins, which create happy euphoric feelings and allows our brain to support and prevent degeneration to the hippo-campus area of the brain (the learning and memory portion).
Exercise helps increase a higher level of thinking, positively impacting our ability to learn and perform better, mentally.
Cardiovascular exercise can actually help create new brain cells called neurogenesis. A tough work out can increase brain-derived proteins believed to help with decision making, thinking, and learning.
It is also a great stress reducer, which is healthy for our mental state and brain function.
4. Healthy Nutrition
A study published in “Neurology in 2011” showed people with higher levels of nutrients tended to score higher on cognitive tests.
A nutritious diet is important for our mind’s proper care and healthy aging. There are a number of vitamins that will also facilitate this process. You can eat them in a well-balanced diet or take them in a supplement.
- Folate: Folic acid is something that is involved with our production of feel-good neurotransmitters and hormones. Low levels can leave us with depression, anxiety, irritability, forgetfulness, and some fatigue. Folate with Vitamin B12 has been shown to help slow the mental decline in patients showing symptoms. Folate can be found in leafy greens, beans, asparagus, whole grains, salmon, avocado etc.
- Vitamin D: There are Vitamin D receptors in our brain in which the vitamin helps clear a plaque or protein deposit that appears in Alzheimer’s brains. Low levels of vitamin D have also been connected to dementia. It can be found in fatty fish, orange juice, fortified milk, cereals etc.
- Antioxidants: Vitamin C and E fight oxidative stress and free radicals, which have been found in patients with Alzheimer’s.
Vitamin E foods are seeds, nuts, whole grains, vegetable oils, and leafy greens etc. Vitamin C can be found in some fruits and vegetables like citrus fruits, kiwi, berries, broccoli, bell peppers etc.
It is very important to get restful sleep because it is a very active time for our brains’ development and ability to function. Our REM (rapid eye movement) sleeps start to decline as we age and this can play a major role in how we process things, remember, and function. REM occupies about 25% of our normal sleep, if we do not get enough sleep we become over tired, run down, and mentally lag.
An average adult needs 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
Naps: Take a 20-30 minute daytime nap to improve skill-memory enhancement, it can actually be as effective as an entire night’s sleep. The best time is right after lunch; it is the easiest time to fall asleep and get a deep sleep benefit.
Incorporating these beneficial habits into our lives will increase our mental clarity and emotional well-being, creating a much more effective command center and healthy life.