Although there have been considerable developments in neuroscience in recent decades, we are still learning about the precise relationships between brain patterns of activity across the interconnected networks of neurons and thoughts or the cognitive and mental state of a person. Brain health is the preservation of optimal brain integrity and mental and cognitive function and the absence of overt neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia. Engaging your brain in a myriad of ways can potentially protect neurons from dying quicker and hopefully it can stimulate the growth of new neurons as well. Stimulating the brain in different ways can help whether you’re young or older.
The following are some ideas you can try to do to strengthen your brain health.
Keeping Fit: Studies show that even small amounts of regular exercise like walking can positively impact brain health. Regular physical activity that increases your heart rate and gets blood pumping to the heart (and brain) helps slow cognitive decline. A great way to start is by joining a walking or sports club or trying a new exercise class: fellow fitness companions can provide encouragement, accountability, and social interaction.
Learning More: Everything from learning a new language or skill to participating in online exercises designed to challenge and test the brain. Reading a book and discussing it family/friends, joining a book group, or enrolling in a class at your local community college or library helps keep your mind engaged and stimulated, which in turn can help ward off cognitive decline.
Managing Stress: Several studies indicate sleep and stress management improve brain health. According to a recent study in the journal Neurology the researchers indicated that stress was also “inversely associated with cerebral brain volume.” So, living with chronic pattern can actually cause our brains to get smaller. So, we should try to override our stress response by learning how to identify the physiological markers (such as tense muscles, rapid heartbeat, shallow breaths). A quick and effective way to reset this response is to take five deep, slow “belly” breaths and simply let yourself be in the moment. This is because when you breathe deeply, it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax.
Take “Brain Breaks”: Don’t just race from one project or meeting to the next. Try to give your brain a break by taking a couple of minutes to intentionally disconnect from effort and inputs. The trick is to disengage your reasoning brain just long enough to recharge it so you can perform better on the next task. Pushing yourself mentally for too long can increase mental errors and mental fatigue thus lowering your efficiency and productivity.
Eating Right: The right diet will help you maintain a healthy weight but it also contributes to positive emotional and cognitive health. Scientific research shows that certain elements in food – from omega-3 fatty acids to vitamin E – can positively impact brain health.
Being Social: Research shows that staying socially connected to other people supports a healthy brain.
Improve Sleep: If you are feeling tired, exhausted, fatigued, and so on? Do your brain a favor and give in to getting sleep. Sleep is very important for good brain health because while we are sleeping our brain repairs itself. If you’re feeling like you’re extra forgetful, your sleep habits could be the culprit. Sleep is also the time where we consolidate memories. If you are experiencing sleep difficulties you should reach out to your primary care physician or medical professional.
The good news is that many of the lifestyle choices that are good for the body are also good for the brain. Now we just need to start implementing them into our daily routines.