13 Ways to Improve Your Brain Health
Written by Gabrielle Martini
Your brain regulates every process of your body – breathing, memory, and even vision! It is the most complex organ in the body and essential to good vision. Our eyes are actually the outermost part of the brain, and 2/3rds of our brain processing goes towards seeing and interpreting those images the eyes capture. Vision therapy helps build new neural pathways that lead to better vision, and a well-taken-care-of brain is vital to a successful program and a healthy life.
Here are 13 ways you can ensure your brain is remaining healthy.
These foods are rich in nutrients such as vitamin K, folate, and beta carotene which help slow cognitive decline. Lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids found in leafy greens, help improve pigment density, protect the macula, and absorb ultraviolet and blue light. In a study testing the effect of eating 1-2 servings of green leafy vegetables each day, it was found that participants exhibited a rate of cognitive decline equivalent to being 11 years younger than those who don’t consume them.
Fatty fish contain omega-3 fatty acids which have been shown to decrease the blood levels of beta-amyloid. Beta-amyloid forms damaging clumps in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. Low levels of omega-3 fatty acids are associated with serious cognitive issues and a greater risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Add in 8 oz of salmon or tuna to your meals each week to save your memory.
Berries contain flavonoids that help improve memories. Flavonols, a type of flavonoids, give berries their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that repair cell damage. Tests conducted with participants who consumed berries versus those who did not revealed better memory. Consuming berries also protect the brain from damaging neurons, slowing down the aging processes. Add some berries to your morning cereal or yogurt to reap the benefits!
Walnuts are found to improve memory. They are composed of omega-3 fatty acids and alpha-linolenic acids which are linked to lower blood pressure and clearer arteries. Components in walnuts are found to counteract two of the main reasons for cognitive decline: oxidative stress and inflammation. Consider having a handful of walnuts as your snack instead of chips.
We know it can be difficult to get all the nutrients you need, which is why our office is a proponent of Juice Plus. It helps you or your child get the nutrients you need to be successful, in either a capsule or gummy. High-quality supplements like Juice Plus are the next best thing to help bridge the gap if you’re finding it difficult to implement all of these suggestions into you or your child’s diet.
Tea and coffee have been found to solidify new memories, improve mental function, lessen depression, improve mood, and boost concentration. Lifelong caffeine consumption is associated with prevention of cognitive decline and decreased risk of developing stroke, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Consuming 200-500mg of caffeine is not harmful for most adults.
Physical activity serves several benefits to your brain and body. It lowers your risk for health conditions that affect your vision such as diabetes and high blood pressure by reducing insulin (hormone that allows cells to absorb glucose) resistance and encouraging the release of growth factors (chemicals that promote the health of brain cells). Exercising helps you learn, think, problem-solve, and enjoy an emotional balance. This is because participating in physical activity increases blood flow to your brain. It has been found that people who exercise have a larger volume in their prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex (parts of the brain that control memory and thinking). When you exercise, endorphins are released. Endorphins are hormones that relieve pain and stress. It also minimizes your risk of cognitive decline, anxiety, and depression. Overall, physical activity improves mood, reduces stress and anxiety, and improves sleep. Exercising 30-60 minutes per day is all it takes to ensure your brain is getting what it needs. It can be walking, swimming, dancing, anything that gets you moving and increases your heart rate!
Sunglasses are used for so much more than just style! Wearing sunglasses protects your eyes from damage and eye damaging conditions. Make sure they block 99 to 100% of both UVA and UVB radiation. They also help reduce those pesky eye wrinkles.
Sleep boosts your overall memory and brain health. It also plays an important role in how nerve cells communicate with each other. Consecutive sleep (8 hours instead of 3-4hr increments) lets your brain have time to consolidate and store your memories. While you sleep, toxins that build up while you’re awake are removed from your brain. For children, they need between 8-12 hours a night.
9. Don’t smoke
Smoking increases your risk of macular degeneration and developing cataracts. Avoiding smoking benefits your blood vessels and decreases inflammation.
10. Limit TV time
Watching television is a passive activity and does little to stimulate your brain. Instead, take some time to play, read, or enjoy a hobby.
Social interaction combats depression and stress (both of which contribute to memory loss). It has been found that being alone (for large amounts of time) is related to brain atrophy, therefore, being socially active strengthens the health of your brain.
Too much sugar in your bloodstream injures the walls of your arteries. There are very small arteries in your eye (retina) and when damaged they leak blood and fluid into your eye. In addition, sugars worsen your body’s insulin regulation, promote inflammation, and promote oxidative stress. Studies have found that diets high in sugar are associated with impaired brain function and mood disorders.
13. Work your brain!
Your brain needs exercise just like a muscle. Do activities such as crosswords, puzzles, reading, or playing cards to work your brain. Switch up the activities for maximum benefits!