As we age so unfortunately does our body and our brain. The brain is highly susceptible to oxidative stress, which increases during aging and is considered to be a major contributor to neurodegeneration, dementia, brain aging, poor cognition and poor memory. It’s really important that we can arm ourselves with valuable tools to reduce the incidence of brain degeneration to improve our mental health and stay sharp. Dementia and other more serious conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease can have devastating effects on people’s lives and those around them.
Some interesting facts about the brain:
- weighs approximately 3lbs
- made up of 75% water
- has 100 billion neurons
- has no pain receptors so it can’t feel pain
- you can’t tickle yourself because you can’t trick your own brain
- your brain is your fattest organ containing at least 60% fat
To Boost Brain Power:
- Keep it Fat
A well-oiled brain will be a healthier brain. Since our brain is largely fat it is beneficial to have the right types of fats in our diets to ensure healthy tissue. Too many of the wrong types of fats increases cellular destruction and poor brain health. Omega-3 fatty acids have a special place here for supporting long term brain health. DHA, in particular, is a type of omega-3 fat that’s been found to boost brain function and even promote brain healing. These fats also support healthy blood flow which supports healthy circulation of nutrients and oxygen to the brain. Healthy omega-3 food sources include wild salmon, herring, sardines, mackerel, linseed, walnuts and chia seeds.
- Binge on Brainberries
Yep that’s right, eat up those blueberries for their powerful antioxidant benefits for the brain. The phytochemicals in blueberries have been linked to improvements in learning, thought and memory, along with reductions in neurodegenerative oxidative stress. A study showed that an extract of blueberries eaten every day led to a reversal of nerve cell damage in rats. After eating their daily dose of berries, the rodents learned faster, had a better short-term memory and had improved balance and coordination. Learn more about the power this little berry has on your health.
- Spice it with Turmeric
Curcumin has even been shown to boost memory and stimulate the production of new brain cells. Turmeric may also help to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is characterised by the build-up of amyloid protein (plaques) within the brain, blocking connections between nerve cells in the brain affecting memory. Curcumin has been shown to reduce the accumulation of these plaques.
- Add Avocado
This fruit is a versatile and delicious addition to any meal, snack or smoothie. The healthy monounsaturated fats along with the vitamin E content found in their most natural form in the flesh help to support and promote healthy brain tissue.
- Keep it Nutty
Nuts also contain vitamin E which acts as an antioxidant agent in the blood and protects fats from oxidizing offering multiple health benefits. Vitamin E may also help to protect neurons and nerve cells. Adults who ate 13g of walnuts every day performed significantly better on cognitive tests than those who didn’t. Nuts are also a good source of healthy fats, natural phytosterols and antioxidants that helps to fight brain aging. Here’s more on the benefits of nuts.
- Keep it Dark
Dark green leafy vegetables contain vitamin K, folate and vitamin E. One study showed that adults who ate plenty of leafy greens had a younger brain by up to 11 years than those that didn’t. Folate has been shown to decrease an amino acid called homocysteine which has been shown to accelerate brain cell destruction and oxidation, it has also been associated with cardiovascular disease and stroke. Folate naturally reduces the level of homocysteine in the blood and the brain so go the greens.
- And Even Darker
It’s dark chocolate we are talking about and only the good stuff! Cacao has been shown to improve verbal fluency and cognitive function in elderly people. Daily consumption of flavanol-rich cocoa can increase the cerebral blood flow to the gray matter suggesting that chocolate may reduce vascular impairment, dementia and stroke injury.
- Hydrate Hydrate Hydrate
The most common complaint I hear from patients and many others, is that they feel that they have continual brain fog which is largely due to poor hydration. When there is an insufficient water supply the brain tissue tends to become dehydrated which will affect the brain signalling.
- Use It or Lose It
Your brain should be treated like a muscle, the more you use it the healthier the tissue. We continue to make new brain neurons in life in response to mental activity. Thinking through puzzles and problem solving has a strong beneficial effect on your brain health. Stimulating new pathways and neurons with mental exercises enhances the health of the brain. Learn new things to keep sharp!
- Move It or Lose It
This not only includes brain exercises but also physical activity helps to improve brain health, reduces systemic inflammation and improves circulation to the brain which means increased nutrient and oxygen delivery. Physical exercise has been shown to increase and improve memory and learning capabilities.
Other factors that are important is adequate sleep, eating a balanced healthy diet and avoiding excess alcohol, smoking and foods additives which have been shown to reduce IQ such as MSG, preservatives and artificial sweeteners.