We all want to stay healthy, but sometimes we forget it’s not just our bodies we need to maintain. Our mind is an integral element in our physical and mental well being, and without it, we wouldn’t be able to function. Keeping your faculties in check is essential for maintaining a sense of emotional strength and mental security, contributing to an overall positive mood and sense of wellbeing.
How to Boost Your Brain Health
When it comes to keeping those minds sharp, proper brain health is key! Here are 6 small ways you can keep your mind functioning optimally.
1. Stay Fit
Heart health isn’t the only perk we get from exercising; recent research suggests exercising encourages brain health, too. The study that spanned 30 years examined how aerobic activity sharpened thinking skills and found the fitter people were in their 20s, the better their thinking skills and memory in middle age—especially if that fitness carried on in life. Interestingly enough, not only was the type of exercise (cardio) important, but the amount of time spent was also a crucial constituent .  That’s a great reason to get back into that fitness routine!
2. Take Turmeric
One study suggests turmeric, a spice often found in curried food, can also boost brain health—in this case, the brain’s ability to heal.  A compound in turmeric — aromatic-turmerone — appears to stimulate areas of the brain involved in nerve cell growth. While further research is needed, this initial finding could lead to breakthroughs in drugs meant for strokes and Alzheimer’s disease.
3. Breath Clean Air
Obviously no one likes breathing polluted air, but recent research suggests it’s more than unpleasant, it could even hurt your brain health. A study from the University of Southern California looked at almost 15,000 men and women over 50, finding that those who lived in more polluted areas performed worse on thinking tests.  How much worse? “Every ten micrograms of fine particle air pollution found per cubic meter was linked to a drop of a third of a point in cognitive scores.”
4. Lower Your Cholesterol
Lowering your “bad” cholesterol levels could even lessen your risk for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. In the first human study of its kind, one report suggests higher levels of “good” cholesterol (HDL) and lower levels of “bad” (LDL) in the bloodstream are linked with lower levels of amyloid plaque in the brain.  The presence of these abnormal proteins are believed to contribute to Alzheimer’s, so maintaining your cholesterol by eating a healthy diet and exercising could be key.
5. Avoid Toxic Chemicals
Toxins like lead, mercury, and some of the most common agricultural pesticides — organophosphates — could be damaging the brains of our unborn children; Dr. David Bellinger suggests, “Americans have collectively forfeited…forty-one million IQ points” as a result.  But there are other neurotoxins for children: new data suggests fluoride could even be one of them, with one study suggesting fluoridated water could lead to brain damage.  Everyone should avoid toxins, true, but they could be extra damaging to the developing mind.
6. Stop Smoking and Drinking
A study of almost 9,000 adults suggests that smoking actually damages the brain, affecting learning, reasoning, and memory.  As with the air pollution research mentioned earlier, this one only looked at people over 50 in order to study the effects on the aging brain. And drinking alcohol could also play a role in neurological health. One study looked at MRI scans of mice brains after drinking and found certain areas of the brain had shrunk.  The study also examined the role of dopamine, a chemical that could play a role in addiction, in the brain. While future research hopes to use these findings to create more effective treatment for alcoholism, why not just avoid drinking and smoking altogether?
Additional Steps to Boosting Your Brain Health
Meditation has been shown to produce powerful beneficial effects in brain chemistry and function, so incorporating some type of meditation or stress-reducing activity into your daily life could be helpful. Getting enough sleep and vitamin D is also essential for keeping the brain healthy. Antioxidants are crucial for protecting brain cells, not to mention other cells throughout the body, so be sure to eat a diet rich in vegetables, small berries, nuts, and seeds to receive your quota for the day.
Have you ever given anything up for your health? Never forget that sometimes it’s the little things that make the biggest impact. You can always make a difference. What do you do to keep your brain active and healthy? Tell us about it in the comments.
- Jacobs, D, et al. Cardiorespiratory fitness and cognitive function in middle age. Neurology.
- Rueger, MA. et al. Aromatic-turmerone induces neural stem cell proliferation in vitro and in vivo. Stem Cell Research & Therapy. 5 (100).
- Ailshire, JA. & Clarke, P. Fine particulate matter air pollution and cognitive function among U.S. Older adults. Journals of Gerontology: Series B, Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences. 70 (2).
- Reed, B. et al. Associations between serum cholesterol levels and cerebral amyloidosis. JAMA Neurology. 70 (2).
- Bellinger, D. A Strategy for Comparing the Contributions of Environmental Chemicals and Other Risk Factors to Neurodevelopment of Children. Environmental Health Perspectives.
- Landrigan, P. & Grandjean, P. Neurobehavioural effects of developmental toxicity. Lancet Neurology. 13 (3).
- Dregan, A. et al. Cardiovascular risk factors and cognitive decline in adults aged 50 and over: a population-based cohort study. Age and Ageing.
- Thanos, P. et al. Upregulation of Cannabinoid Type 1 Receptors in Dopamine D2 Receptor Knockout Mice Is Reversed by Chronic Forced Ethanol Consumption. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. 35 (1).