You only get one brain. That’s just one brain that you have to protect from injury, disease, and even the consequences of aging. Fortunately, there are things you can do to ensure your brain health, giving your brain the opportunity to function at a high level for as long as possible.
If your goal is to keep your memory, reasoning ability, and thinking power strong, the following tips are designed to help you do just that. Here's a quick look at 10 ways to love your brain.
1. Get moving to get your heart pumping
As if you didn’t already have enough reasons to break a sweat every day, here’s another one. University of British Columbia researchers have determined that regular aerobic exercise boosts the size of your brain’s hippocampus. (1) The hippocampus is the part of your brain responsible for learning and verbal memory.
By the way, this only applies to aerobic exercises, such as running, hiking, kickboxing, and spinning classes. Unfortunately, similar results weren’t seen with resistance training or muscle toning and balancing exercises.
2. Get some sleep
Recent studies indicate that sleep is crucial for brain restoration because it allows time to flush out any toxins that may have built up in your brain while you were awake. (2) According to researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center, this is especially true of a toxic protein known as beta-amyloid. Beta-amyloid is known for accumulating in the brain of Alzheimer’s disease patients. (3)
Thanks to sleep’s restorative properties, your brain also finds it easier to store memories. In addition, researchers are well aware that too little sleep often results in impaired reasoning and problem solving abilities, as well as a decreased attention to detail.
3. Continue to further your education
Regardless of where you are in your life, formal education helps decrease your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. In research reported by the American Psychological Association, this proved to be especially beneficial for anyone between the ages 50-79. (4)
In one study, over 90 percent of participants demonstrated a significant increase in their cognitive capability when taking a college course. This compared to only 56 percent who were in a control group.
If going to college isn’t your thing, consider taking a class in something that you have always been interested in at a local community center or online.
4. Protect your head
A previous history of head trauma, particularly multiple concussions, is believed to increase your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease in the future. (5) This is why it is so important to protect your head now.
To do this, always wear a helmet when taking part in sports, such as skating, cycling, and skateboarding, as well as a seat belt when riding in a car. Also, take the time to eliminate any tripping hazards around your home and office that could result in a hard fall.
If necessary, add additional security features around your home, such as grab bars in the bathroom, rails on all the stairs, and extra lighting outside.
5. Consider taking a cognitive enhancer
In recent years, multiple herbal supplements have been marketed as “cognitive enhancers that boost brain power.” In some cases, these supplements do work.
You just have to be certain that you are purchasing a high-quality supplement manufactured by a trusted company that is committed to using ingredients scientifically proven to have brain-boosting qualities.
6. Take care of your mental health
Over the last three decades, researchers have put significant effort into determining if there is a link between mental health and overall brain health. They have found that good mental health is necessary for the brain to repair and rest nerves and their connections throughout your body. (6)
One important finding centers on a brain protein known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF plays a critical role in the brain’s (including its nerves’ and neurons’) ability to function properly, particularly in the hippocampus.
Stress, which can trigger some mental illnesses, results in decreased BDNF in the brain. If you are struggling with a mental illness, treating it will allow BDNF levels to be restored to normal.
7. Stop smoking
Everyone knows about the many ways your physical health will benefit from putting an end to your smoking habit, whether you're a chain smoker or only light up occasionally.
Well, it also does quite a bit for your brain health. Researchers have found that non-smokers have a better functioning memory than those who smoke. (7) This pertains to both your “retrospective memory,” which details your ability to learn information and retrieve it in the future, as well as your “prospective memory,” which refers to your ability to carry out a specific action at a future point in time.
8. Incorporate brain healthy foods into your daily diet
Believe it or not, what you eat can impact how your brain ages. After all, your brain’s ability to function is similar to that of a high-end car.
Whereas a high-end car needs premium fuel, your brain needs high-quality food filled with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that provide nourishment and protect it from the oxidative stress that can damage your brain cells. (8)
Opting for foods high in refined sugar is actually harmful to the brain because they promote oxidative stress (the “waste” produced when the body uses oxygen) that damages cells and promotes inflammation. Some of the best foods for brain health include nuts, salmon, beans, avocados, blueberries, black rice, and dark chocolate. (9)
9. Take control of any health issues you may have
Several health conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and depression, affect your brain. (10) When left untreated, there is the chance of damage to your cognitive function, particularly your memory and your level of attention.
As a result, it is crucial that you get regular checkups and start treating any health conditions as soon as possible.
10. Get out and socialize with others
In recent years, researchers have found that engaging socially has a positive impact on your brain health. (11) Specifically, people who frequently connect with others tend to perform better on tests involving memory and other cognitive skills.
In the long term, people with an active social life have a lower chance of developing dementia than those who choose to isolate themselves from others.
It's never too late to incorporate any of the tips above into your daily routine.