10 Tips for Peak Brain Health

This week’s #HealthyHabit focuses on the topic of brain health.

The brain requires certain activities and nutrients to stay healthy. 

Omega-3 fatty acids (found in oily fish), for example, help to build and repair brain cells, while antioxidants (e.g. dark chocolate, berries) reduce cellular stress and inflammation, which are linked to brain aging and neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Check out our 10 top tips for keeping your brain in tip top shape at every age.

1. Fuel it right

Eat a healthy and balanced diet that is lower in fat and higher in veg and fruit to help reduce your risk of cognitive decline. The traditional Mediterranean diet, which includes omega 3-rich-fish, is linked to a lower risk of dementia.

Omega-3s are important for:

  • Blood flow in the brain
  • Children's brain development
  • Normal brain function (communication between cells, concentration, thinking, memory)
  • Vision

For adults, Omega-3,6 and 9, vitamin E and coenzyme Q10 are crucial.

Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. If you are not a fish fan, you can also find omega-3s in soybeans, nuts and flaxseed or of course, a supplement.

2. Protect the brain

Co-enzyme Q10 levels in the brain naturally decrease as we get older, affecting brain function. With low levels of CoQ10, the number of free radicals in the brain can increase, causing oxidative stress. A CoQ10 supplement is beneficial to help protect the brain from the resulting oxidative damage.

Co-enzyme Q10 is also necessary for energy production in the brain. Vitamin D also helps the activity of the brain cells and memory function, along with antioxidants (found in dark chocolate and berries).

3. Exercise regularly

Multiple research studies have shown that people who are physically active are less likely to experience a decline in their mental function and have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, potentially as a result of increased blood flow to the brain when we exercise.

Aim to exercise several times per week for 30–60 minutes. You can walk, swim, play tennis or any other moderate aerobic activity that increases your heart rate, as this is what increases blood flow to the brain and body.

4. Get plenty of sleep

Sleep plays a crucial role in your brain health. Not getting enough sleep due to conditions such as insomnia and sleep apnea may result in memory and thinking problems.

It is important that you try to get 7 to 8 consecutive hours of sleep per night. Consecutive sleep gives your brain the time to consolidate and store your memories effectively. If you’re struggling to sleep, make sure you speak to your GP.

5. Keep the mind active

Your brain is like a muscle — you need to “exercise” it or you lose its strength. It is so important to challenge and active the mind – try a jigsaw puzzle, crosswords, Sudoku, reading, playing cards. Try not to watch too much television, as it is a passive activity and does little to stimulate the brain.

Why not study something new? Formal education (an online case, a course at a local college/community centre) at any stage of life will help to reduce your risk of cognitive decline and dementia.

6. Stay social

Social interaction helps to ward off depression and stress, both of which can contribute to memory loss. Make a conscious effort to stay connected with friends and loved ones or take part in your local community, particularly if you live alone.

7. Quit smoking

Studies have shown that smoking increases the risk of cognitive decline. Quitting smoking can reduce this risk to levels similar to those in people who have never smoked.

8. Look after your heart

Studies have shown that risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke such as obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes can also negatively affect your brain’s health.

9. Heads up

Brain injury can increase your risk of dementia and cognitive decline. Take the necessary precautions such as wearing a seat belt, wearing a helmet when cycling or playing contact sports, and as you age, take steps to prevent falling.

10. Take care of your mental health

Certain studies have linked a history of depression with the increased risk of cognitive decline, therefore it is important to seek medical help if you have symptoms of depression, anxiety or any other mental health concerns. It is also important to try and manage your stress levels.

Your local StayWell Pharmacy can help you to choose the right supplement for you and your family.

Sources: Mayo Clinic, Alzheimer's Association, Everyday Health, Medical News Today, Web MD