If you want to stay young, it’s important to prioritize brain health. So keep reading to learn tips that’ll help optimize brain functioning.
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In this Article:
Brain Health: Why It Matters and Ways to Improve It
The Aging Brain
Just like the other parts of your body, your brain changes as you age. From infancy to young adulthood, your brain increases in weight.
As individuals enter into their 30s or 40s, their brains begin to shrink slowly. By 40 years old, an individual’s brain can shrink by 5% each decade.
Studies show that this brain shrinkage rate occurs faster once individuals reach 70 years old. Volume loss isn’t consistent throughout the brain, though.
There are some areas of the brain that shrink faster than others. The prefrontal cortex and hippocampus tend to have the most considerable age-related losses. These complex structures of the brain are associated with learning and memory.
These age-related brain changes may be due to lifestyle factors or diseases. Inflammation and epigenetics may also contribute to the aging of the brain.
Inflammation and Epigenetic Changes in the Brain
Just like the other cells in our body, brain cells can accumulate damage over time. Exposure to toxins, stress, unhealthy diet and poor lifestyle choices can contribute to this damage.
This damage can come in the form of mitochondrial dysfunction, which then impairs the strength and density of neuron connections. Another source of damage is inflammation.
Inflammation can lead to epigenetic changes and alter gene expression in the brain. These changes in gene expression can contribute to the dysfunctions of the aging brain.
On top of that, as you get older, it gets harder to counteract inflammation. As you age, there’s a decrease of blood flow to the brain, an accumulation of toxin and pathogen exposure, and an increase in free radical damage.
Over time, these factors can compromise brain health. Many believe that brain health only concerns the aging adult population.
Neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease are usually associated with the elderly. However, researchers are finding that there is a rise in cases of early-onset neurodegenerative diseases.
So it’s never too early to start thinking about brain health. The good news is, there are things you can do to optimize and improve brain health.
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5 Ways to Optimize Brain Health
Here are some ways you can optimize brain health:
1. Improve Quality of Sleep
Sleep plays a vital role in brain health. It allows the body to get rid of metabolic waste from the brain, which boosts functioning.
Several studies show that sleep deprivation can have a negative effect on cognitive functioning. It can impair working memory, long-term memory, and decision making.
Here are some things you can do to improve sleep quality:
- Establish a sleep routine where you fall asleep and wake up at relatively the same time each day.
- Set a caffeine cut-off so you won’t have trouble sleeping at night.
- Limit screen time during the evening to prevent overstimulation.
Remember, experts recommend getting at least 7 hours of quality sleep every day.
2. Maintain a Healthy Diet
Your brain cells get their energy from the food that you consume, so it’s essential to maintain a healthy diet. On top of that, research shows that certain nutrients can have a better effect on neuronal function and synaptic plasticity.
Research shows that specific diets can lead to better brain health. For example, studies show that people who adhere to the Mediterranean diet have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
What is the Mediterranean diet? It’s a diet that is rich in plant-based foods and olive oil. It also consists of a moderate intake of poultry and fish. It limits the intake of processed meats, dairy, and sweets.
More studies are needed to figure out which aspects of the Mediterranean Diet are good for the brain. Research already shows, however, that healthy fats are linked to better cognitive functioning.
3. Exercise Regularly
Exercise helps improve blood flow, so it allows your body to circulate nutrients and oxygen more effectively (including the brain). On top of that, multiple studies show that physically active people are less likely to develop neurodegenerative diseases.
So try to make it a habit to get regular exercise 3-4 days each week. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise spread out throughout the week.
4. Manage Stressors
Stress usually causes the release of stress hormones. If stress becomes chronic, this constant surge of hormones can lead to inflammation.
So it’s important to understand and manage your stressors. Here are some things you can do when you feel stress mounting:
- Breathing exercises
- Seeking social support
- Therapy or counseling
Stress management varies from person to person. It’s essential to understand your stress triggers so you can avoid them.
5. Engage in New Learning Activities
Many experts believe that the brain is just like a muscle. You need to use it, or you might lose it.
When you learn new things, your hippocampus incorporates new neurons in existing circuitry, and it strengthens connections that already exist. So learning new things helps keep your brain fit.
So make sure you’re setting aside time to engage in enjoyable and intellectually stimulating activities. These activities can include doing a puzzle, reading, or learning a new language.
Bonus: learning new things is an excellent way to meet new people and stay socially active. Research shows that social isolation may contribute to brain atrophy.
Brain health plays a vital role in your overall health, so don’t neglect it. If you’re interested in learning about other ways to optimize your healthspan, visit the TruDiagnostic website.
Have you tried any of these brain health tips? How did it go? Please share your experiences with us in the comments section below.
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