Do you want a healthy brain? Of course, you do! How do you keep that brain of yours healthy, then? Let's find out.
In this article:
- Introduction to Brain Health
- What Causes Mental Decline?
- How to Have a Healthy Brain with the 6 Pillars of Brain Health
6 Pillars of a Healthy Brain
Introduction to Brain Health
Brain health is important throughout your entire life. A healthy brain helps you learn in school, do well at work and hold onto memories as you get older.
If your brain seems to be getting “foggy” over the years, you are not alone. The human brain changes over the years. Mental decline is common with aging, according to Harvard Medical School. This means many people become forgetful, have trouble focusing, and lose their capacity to solve problems.
What Causes Mental Decline?
Certain medical conditions can cause a decline in brain function, also known as cognitive decline. The National Institutes of Health says that Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, and depression can cause cognitive decline.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. Dementia is an umbrella term for conditions that cause memory loss and other brain health problems. The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia can affect a person’s daily life.
There are six known factors that help keep a brain healthy. Many medical professionals refer to these as the “six pillars of brain health.” You can take steps to strengthen your six pillars of brain health by improving your lifestyle.
Alzheimer's Disease Definition: It is a type of dementia that causes mental problems related to memory, behavior, and cognitive abilities.
How to Have a Healthy Brain with the 6 Pillars of Brain Health
1. Exercise Regularly
There is a strong connection between exercise and brain health. Harvard Medical School discusses the results of a study that showed aerobic exercise increases the volume of the hippocampus in the brains of people who exercise. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that controls verbal memory and learning.
The participants in the study walked briskly for an hour, twice each week. Only aerobic exercise improved the brain – strength training exercises had no effect. To have a healthy brain, engage in about 120 minutes of aerobic exercise each week. Try swimming, dancing, climbing stairs, or even raking leaves.
2. Eat a Healthy Brain Diet
Fill your plate with healthy brain food. Cleveland Clinic recommends a Mediterranean diet to maintain brain health and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. This diet features fish, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, olives, and nuts.
Healthy brain foods include fish, fruits, and vegetables. Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids that are good for your brain. Broccoli, cabbage, and dark leafy greens may help improve your memory, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Add walnuts, flax seeds, blueberries, brown rice, tea, tomatoes, and onions for a healthy brain diet.
You can also take dietary supplements for brain health if you have trouble eating a Mediterranean diet.
Limit red meat and dairy products, as they are associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Avoid added sugar.
3. Stimulate Your Mind
Cleveland Clinic says that you are born with a “brain reserve” that helps your brain respond to changes and resist damage. Your brain reserve began to develop when you were a child and got stronger when you became an adult. Adults who keep learning, participating in new activities, and developing new skills are actually building and improving their brain reserves – and so can you!
Go back to school, get a new job, or take up a new hobby. Do crossword puzzles, play card games or enjoy a game of chess.
4. Get Quality Sleep
Sleep is important for storing memories, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Research shows that lack of sleep affects your ability to reason, solve problems, pay attention to details, and perform other mental tasks.
Getting quality sleep is essential for a healthy brain. While you sleep, your body is busy clearing toxins from your brain. Your body rinses your brain in cerebral spinal fluid while you sleep. This fluid washes away proteins that can eventually lead to dementia. You wake up feeling refreshed.
Quality sleep helps your brain store information gained throughout the day. Sleep preserves important memories and helps your brain establish the order of the events you experienced that day.
The National Sleep Foundation says that good quality sleep is when you fall asleep in 30 minutes or less, sleep soundly all night, wake up no more than once, and fall back asleep within 20 minutes when you do wake up.
5. Manage Your Physical Health
Some medical conditions can affect the way your brain works. Being overweight can lead to diabetes, for example, and people with diabetes are more likely to develop dementia. High blood pressure can damage certain structures in your brain and this damage can lead to mental decline later on. High cholesterol can also increase your risk of dementia. Smokers have twice the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Injuries can lead to mental decline, too. Head injuries can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. Avoid head injuries by wearing a helmet while riding a bike or engaging in other activities. Wear a seat belt while riding in a car.
Keep your blood pressure, cholesterol, and weight within normal limits. Take all medication as prescribed. Cut down the amount of sugar and salt in your diet, as these can lead to health problems that cause mental decline. Quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke.
6. Engage in an Active Social Life
An active social life is good for your brain. Research shows that social relationships can prevent cognitive decline. This means staying in touch with friends and family can help your brain stay healthy.
An active social life can also reduce your risk of depression. Depression is associated with a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Staying socially connected can help reduce your risk of depression.
A healthy brain is essential for living a long and full life. Learn the importance of brain health from the American Heart Association:
Making minor lifestyle changes can help you build and maintain these six pillars of brain health. Eating brain-healthy foods, exercising regularly, maintaining good health, and engaging with friends and family can help you keep a healthy brain throughout your entire life.
How do you keep your brain healthy? Share memory and brain processing enhancement tips with us in the comments below.
DISCLAIMER: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. None of the nutritional products mentioned is intended to Diagnose, Treat, Cure or Prevent Any Disease.