Brain health is top of mind for so many people.
Conditions related to the health of the brain and aging are increasing worldwide in prevalence. Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia have become a bit of a “silent epidemic.” Globally, 50 million people are living with some form of dementia.
Cognitive related diseases are often associated with age. However, experts believe that these chronic, cognitive-related diseases start in the brain anywhere from 30-50 years before a confirmed diagnosis.
It may feel like we are out of control to prevent debilitating age-related illnesses or conditions. Although we cannot control all outcomes, research has shown that lifestyle and environmental factors play a role.
There ARE things that we CAN be doing regularly to support better brain health and healthy aging. Also, many of the same lifestyle measures can improve outcomes after the onset of a health condition related to brain health.
Lifestyle May Affect the Health of Your Brain
The brain is one of the most critical organs and is influenced by the way we live.
Modern lifestyles may wreak havoc on brain health. Factors such as recurring sleep deprivation, chronic psychological stress, and harmful agents in our environment may contribute to brain impairments and have a long-term impact. Symptoms such as fatigue, lack of energy, memory lapses, or mood shifts might indicate that something is out of balance.
On the flip side, consistent, healthy routines in our daily lives can nourish and nurture the health of the brain. Furthermore, practicing healthy habits for brain health may increase the likelihood of longevity and a better quality of life as we age.
What to Do to Boost Brain Health?
Condition the brain through “mental fitness”
Research has shown that performing cognitive exercises could contribute to the neuroplasticity of the brain, which is essentially the brain’s ability to adapt throughout time.
“Exercising the brain” can condition its ability to operate and maintain healthy functionality over the life course. This mental fitness is important for cognition, including memory, creative thought, and habit or behavior change.
Games that involve critical thinking, such as crossword puzzles, can be handy to incorporate into the day-to-day. Other forms of triggering the brain may also be impactful. This may include completing exercises that test your memory or performing something physically different, such as using your non-dominant hand.
Tackle excess stress in your lifestyle
The reduction of chronic stress may also boost brain health. Psychological stress can be taxing from an emotional perspective, but also on the hormones that support healthy brain activity. Research studies have also suggested that the effects of chronic stress may contribute to a decline in cognitive function.
Stress management and resilience-building are significant to overall health and well-being, including the health of our brain. Mindfulness-based applications can help to tackle chronic stress. As Dr. Roger Landry mentions in a Mind Body Green article, practicing mindfulness is a way to regain control over our minds and emotions.
Environmental stress on the body is also a critical area that may be overlooked. Various compounds, both natural and man-made, may be influencing the body at a biochemical level and could impair internal health. Furthermore, these environmental variables may contribute to a decrease in optimal brain functionality with age.
Although this area may seem overwhelming, there are areas in which we CAN address. A “clean up” with personal and home care products could make small, consistent differences (practicing realistic avoidance).
When working with a trained health practitioner, assessments such as the Quick Environmental Exposure and Sensitivity Inventory (QEESI) can also help. Doing so could indicate A) where best to make lifestyle adjustments and/or B) ways to respond to environmental exposures through clinical approaches, nutritional supplementation, or other individualized and targeted health treatments.
Eat well to live well
Leading experts in integrative health and lifestyle wellness have been known to state that the brain may be the organ that suffers the MOST from a poor diet.
Food plays a role in cognitive performance, such as memory and focus. Also, it supports the mechanisms related to the gut-brain axis, hormonal activity and neurotransmission, and the body’s ability to appropriately detox.
Focus on a variety of colorful whole-foods is a positive overarching strategy (and avoiding too much sugar!). Then, incorporating healthful fats and relevant compounds such as amino acids. Also, paying attention to cleaner sourcing modalities may be supportive of reducing unintended environmental impact.
Using a food journal that includes sections for mood and digestive health notes can support staying on track. Highlighting “brain foods” across the days could also help.
Ensure the practice of healthy, daily routines
Circadian rhythms are innate to our body but also something that we may not always nurture. In the modern world of fast-paced, go-go-go, and blue-light technology, we may be throwing our systems off, including our neurology. Maintaining good sleep routines can help support critical brain functions.
Physical activity also plays a role in brain health. Experts believe that exercise may contribute to brain growth and help to maintain the dynamics of mental health.
Healthful movement may include rigorous exercise or gentle, restorative movement options such as walking, yoga, meditation, and breathwork.
Also, self-care check-ins may be supportive, as this “healthy aging checklist” resource details.
The way we live, eat, and spend time throughout our days can make or break our health, including a healthy brain!