You may not think about it often, but your brain’s health is just as important as the health of every other part of your body. Just like your muscles, heart, and other organs, you need to exercise and nourish your brain. Doing so will keep you sharp and focused, and lower your risk of diseases like dementia or Alzheimer’s.
A healthy brain gives you excellent memory, consistent clarity, and overall better well-being. Keeping your brain happy and healthy is not so different than keeping any other part of your body in good shape. You just need to know what habits to focus on and how to keep your mind sharp.
To keep your brain on the up-and-up, you can use a combination of smart diet choices and mental exercises to keep your brain engaged and challenged. Here are five quick ways you can keep your brain engaged throughout your day.
1. Keep Your Heart Healthy
While this may seem like redirection, there’s a strong connection between your brain and your heart. Since your heart is responsible for circulating blood throughout the body, any issues with your ticker can negatively affect your brain as well. Things like high blood pressure, uncontrolled blood sugar, high cholesterol, and other heart conditions have been shown to increase your risk of brain diseases later in life, so keep your heart healthy.
2. Eat Foods That Benefit Your Brain
The best way to alter your diet is to focus on “smart” foods. Here are some options from Steven Pratt, MD, author of SuperFoods RX:
- Blueberries: These help protect your brain from oxidative stress.
- Nuts & Seeds: These are a great source of vitamin E, which can help slow cognitive decline as you get older. Walnuts, almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds—they all have brain-boosting benefits.
- Avocados: This is a fatty fruit that has monounsaturated fat. This contributes to healthy blood flow and lowers blood pressure.
- Wild Salmon: Deep-water fish like salmon are rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids, which are required for healthy brain function.
3. Avoid Excessive Alcohol Consumption
Excessive and regular use of alcohol can have some pretty serious effects on your brain. Known as “binge drinking,” having more than four drinks in a two-hour period results in atrophy, dehydration, and brain dysfunction. Long-term use of alcohol can also cause premature dementia. Having said that, it’s worth noting that the occasional drink or night of fun isn’t going to cause long-term damage.
4. Improve Your Sleep
Sleep is another major requirement that your brain needs to function properly. A lack of deep sleep is being studied as a potential source of Alzheimer’s. While you sleep, your brain is cleansed of toxins and rests. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours of sleep per night for healthy adults. Clean up your sleep hygiene for better, healthier sleep.
5. Get Regular Exercise
Simple and low-impact exercise for 30-minutes a day is a great way to start. This alone can reduce your risk of obesity, high blood pressure, and lots of other factors. If you get up and move around each day, you’ll benefit both your heart and your brain all at once. Find exercise you like so you’ll stick with it…try yoga, hiking, swimming, tai chi, or belly dancing!
In addition to all of these tips, here’s a bonus one: keep your brain sharp by doing brain challenges. If you play video games with puzzles, it works great, but you can also find brain teasers online or in books.
How do you keep your brain healthy and happy? Let us know in the comments!