Early studies of the brain determined that there wasn’t much you could do as an adult to improve brain health and cognitive function. Most believed that brain development took place in early childhood and that once you reached a certain age, you just worked with what you had.
We now know that this isn’t true. While the early years are when the brain is at its most plastic and ripe for learning and growing, the brain never stops working to create new pathways, connections, and new brain cells.
Five Ways You Can Improve Your Brain Health Starting Today
1. Feed Your Brain The Right Food
A healthy, balanced diet is ideal for a healthy body and brain, but there are some specific foods that pack an extra punch in the big brain department.
Fatty fish such as salmon, herring, and sardines are wonderful. Blueberries, nuts and seeds, and leafy green vegetables are also good. Coffee is a good neuroprotective, and so is green tea.
Avoiding excess sugar and overly processed foods is just as important. Too much sugar and certain additives increase inflammation throughout the body, including the brain, and can contribute to cognitive decline and dementia.
2. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep deprivation is common in today’s overstimulated, anxious, and busy society. Burning the candle at both ends is often seen as noble and productive, but the result is chronic sleep deprivation and burnout. Over time, you are depriving the brain of valuable downtime it needs to process information and replenish itself. It is while you sleep that your brain stores new knowledge and rids itself of toxic waste. When you don’t get enough sleep, you don’t give your brain the chance to file and store new information.
3. Don’t Stop Learning
Constantly learning new things helps your brain stay young and sharp. Your brain thrives on new experiences and stimulation.
Learning a new language or a musical instrument are two powerful ways to stimulate your brain. You don’t have to master them or become fluent, just the act of learning something new is helpful. Other activities you could try include learning new games, playing games of skill, engaging in brain-building games, and exposing yourself to novel experiences and things, such as art, music, culture, and new environments.
4. Maintain Social Support And Interaction
Healthy, frequent social interaction is vital for the health of your brain. Regular social contact stimulates the release of neurochemicals and helps keep your brain sharp. Multiple studies of older persons who had excellent cognitive function compared to many of their other peers had something in common: Active social lives. One such study noted that increased social contact at age 60 was associated with a 12% lower risk of dementia later in life.
5. Exercise Regularly
One powerful way to keep your brain healthy is through exercise. Lack of exercise, poor diet, inadequate sleep, and stress are all factors that can impact your brain function. If you are sleep deprived, stressed, and not eating right, you are going to experience forgetfulness.
Exercise improves circulation, relieves stress, and helps you sleep more soundly. That right there is a tremendous advantage and can help stave off mild cognitive decline symptoms.
Walking is great exercise, as are cycling and outdoor activities such as kayaking, hiking, climbing, etc. Weight training is also good.
A surprising winner when it comes to brain health is the squat. This bodyweight strength training exercise has been shown to have a significant impact on brain health.A recent article published by the BBC cited a study by Professor Damian Bailey of the University of South Wales.
His studies have shown that squats impact the brain because the change in gravity causes your blood vessels to work harder to maintain the equilibrium. This buffering action causes vessels to release molecules that stimulate new connections and new cells. A recent article by the BBC cited a study by Professor Damian Bailey of the University of South Wales.
How Often And How Many Squats For Brain Health?
So how much time do you need to devote to this brain-building exercise? Not as much as you would think. Doing three minutes of squats three times per week gives the boost you need to help keep your brain healthy. It’s easy to incorporate squats into your current routine if you aren’t already doing them. Not only that, but squats are great for increasing strength and giving your lower half a toned appearance.
Ideally, this is with other physical activity and proper nutrition. But it’s good to know that just a few minutes a week of squats alone can dramatically improve and protect the health of your brain.
If you are just getting started with fitness to care for your body and your mind, it’s okay to start slow. It’s important with exercises like squats to perfect your form and to focus on quality, not quantity. You can build up from there.
It’s never too early or too late to improve your health. Avoiding sugar and processed foods, getting lots of sleep, and exercising regularly are all good ways to stay sharp and healthy for years. It’s never too early or too late to protect your brain.
“Association of social contact with dementia and cognition: 28-year follow-up of the Whitehall II cohort study” by Andrew Sommerlad, Séverine Sabia, Archana Singh-Manoux, Glyn Lewis and Gill Livingston, 2 August 2019, PLOS Medicine.
“Late-Life Social Activity and Cognitive Decline in Old Age” by Bryan D. James, Robert S. Wilson, Lisa L. Barnes and David A. Bennett, 8 April 2011, Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society.