Nourished by neurons and glial cells, your brain health is important. You must take care of this treasure chest of experiences that make you who you are. This extraordinary vault of information copes with the introduction of new things every day – and this information exercises and keeps it in top form.
To truly care for your brain, there are some tips and tricks that you can put into practice. From diet to behavioural habits, healthy grey matter helps you prevent or slow the advancement of certain diseases.
An unhealthy lifestyle is often a contributing factor of many illnesses – sickness that can be avoided. Stress, hypertension, cholesterol and obesity are just a few of the diseases caused by neurovascular accidents. Sometimes, even a simple headache is the result of a day filled with stress and anxiety. The brain plays a role in a spectrum of illnesses, which is why we should always keep it healthy.
Pay attention to clues that the brain gives you. Things that seem trivial – minor forgetfulness, an inability to think of the right words – can actually point to more serious conditions. But you can improve your cognition and build your mental reserves. This article explains how.
Tips for looking after your brain
1. Top up your cognitive reserve
Your ‘memory stores’ contain all the things your life has thrown at you: happy experiences, daily learning and even suffering. These memories build and create a foundation on which an information vault grows. When you are searching for memories and emotions, this is where you go. Every day decisions are made and knowledge is accumulated based upon what you’ve learned in life. This process is known as cognitive reserve. Bigger is better. The larger your reserve, the better protected you are against premature ageing – and that’s because cerebral connections (the material that makes up your cognitive reserve) strengthen your neuronal matter. More connections mean more new tissue – which brings better protection against possible illness. Now you see why it’s so important to experiment and to learn new things every day.
2. Take care of your diet
Your brain requires a lot of energy. In fact, this organ alone uses from 20 to 30% of the calories that you consume. Not so fast, though! You should avoid eating too many fats – especially the wrong ones. Which ones should you specifically avoid? Well, refined, processed foods do not facilitate good brain health in the long run. Nutritionists recommend the following foods to ensure that you get ample supplies of the following chemical elements:
- Tryptophan helps to retain knowledge. You’ll find it in foods like nuts, bananas, pineapples, seaweed, spinach and avocados.
- Choline is found in soya and broccoli. Tofu is rich in choline. Why’s it important to brain health? It’s essential for the transmission of nerve impulses to muscles.
- L-glutamine is the building block of gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. It promotes good mood and well being. Look for it in delicious sesame and sunflower seeds.
- Flavonoids are basic for neuron synapses. They slow the ageing of neurons and help improve memory. What’s more, flavonoids are plentiful in some of the most delicious foods: chocolate, red wine and…beans!
- Alpha lipoic acid is another essential nutrient for neurons as it combats stress and neutralises free radicals. Go green to get your daily dose of alpha lipoic acid. It’s in vegetables like spinach, leafy lettuce, cabbage and broccoli.
- Vitamin E is mandatory for good brain health. It activates neurons and prevents the oxidation of their membranes. Eat it up in the form of curry, asparagus, avocados, walnuts, peanuts, olives and olive oil.
3. Keep physically active
It’s good for your brain to keep your body moving! Studies suggest that physical exercise prevents or slows diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Walking, riding a bike, swimming or doing anything active for half an hour to an hour each day is enough to stimulate and improve neuron function.
4. Learn to cope with your emotions
Stress. It can seriously hinder you – and it’s not a friend to a healthy brain. Learn to let it go. The pressure of your lifestyle and its daily obligations, the pressures and anxieties of life fill you with toxins. In the long run, they’ll block your brain from functioning well. Oxygenated cells cause premature ageing. For these reasons, it’s extremely important to learn to handle things calmly. Always try to prioritise positive thoughts and see things from a more serene vantage point from where you’ll value yourself and your health, both physical and mental.
5. Get out and socialise
When you have a full social life, you engage your mind. Experiences with friends and relatives provide conversation, support, encouragement and excitement. Socialising gives meaning to life and stimulates ideas, projects and dreams. The human brain is nurtured by these key ingredients that comprise its vault of experiences and – as we mentioned earlier, such strengthening of its reserves make it more powerful, youthful and fit.
6. Get your rest
7 or 8 hours of solid snoozing is what you need. We’re not joking. Sleeping is fundamental for the body and mind. In fact, without it, the brain struggles to carry out its tasks. Things such as organising memories or categorising experiences may seem automatic, but it’s not easy to store, catalogue and arrange all that data. The brain is even active at night, so it’s doubly important to make sure that you give it enough down time to deal with everything that you throw at it.
7. Stimulate cognition
Quite apart from physical exercise, your brain needs its own activities and daily challenges to grease its gears. Give it small challenges that will keep it ticking over, feeling youthful and functioning at a high level so that it can meet everyday needs. There are all sorts of things you can do to feed it. Why not match wits at chess with a friend or relative? Play with words – a crossword or sudoku, perhaps? Even reading a book or starting a personal journal will help you to reflect and retain your daily experiences. All of these tiny actions and challenges contribute to superior brain health. Never stop testing it!