Brain Health: It’s on the Mind
Though you might not *think* about it all that often, your brain is always working for you. The brain is important for so many reasons, not the least of which is coordinating intellect and learning, as well as bodily sensation and movement. We’ve already discussed mental health on the blog, and obviously brain health is important for good mental health. Interest in the aging brain is also increasing as people become more and more interested in prevention of brain disorders like Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
As expected, good brain health is maintained by a generally healthy lifestyle, one that includes a balanced diet, physical activity, fresh air, adequate sleep, and stress management. Below are some more specific things you might consider if wanting to give your brain a little extra attention. When considering these, keep in mind (pun intended, again!) that everyone is different. It’s important to know individual health status and risk factors, so make sure to keep regular medical appointments, too. A trusted healthcare provider may be able to provide guidance on blood tests to run and/or dietary supplements that may be relevant.
Physical activity. It’s so important for brain health! As always, any activity counts, whether it’s walking, swimming, weightlifting, or something else.
Games, puzzles, memorization, math. These are a great workout for the brain and can be played or done in person or online. The more strategy required, the better. Scrabble and chess are great options.
Reading. It strengthens the brain, and the more reading the better: the brain actually becomes stronger and more complex as reading ability and maturity increases. Any type of reading will do, but switch up the genre or content for maximum benefit.
Playing a musical instrument. Music uses a different area of the brain than speaking or writing, and using all parts of the brain is great for overall brain health.
Socializing. As discussed in the post on mental health, connection with others is important for the mind! The brain works in many ways, and staying connected to others helps keep the brain in shape.
Soybeans, egg yolks, white beans, and liver. These foods are a good source of phosphatidylserine, a type of fatty acid found in the brain that supports thought process and memory, especially in the elderly.
Salmon, mackerel, oysters, sardines, anchovies. These fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are discussed on the blog HERE, HERE, and HERE. Omega-3s are well known for their role in brain health, also supporting thought process and memory, especially in the elderly.
Flax seeds, walnuts. Non-seafood sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Note that seafood sources of omega-3s are more effectively used by the body than plant sources, but these are great to include in a well-rounded diet, too.
Cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, arugula. Cruciferous vegetables are good sources of citicholine, which is known to provide support for attention, focus, and recalling information. Soybeans, eggs, beans, and liver are also good sources of citicholine.
Red meat, and poultry, fish, and dairy. These foods contain acetyl-L-carnitine, which is an amino acid that supports overall brain function. The brain is extremely active, and acetyl-L-carnitine helps in making sure it has energy to keep up with the demands of the job. Note that the redder the meat, the higher the acetyl-L-carnitine content.
As you can see, the prescription for a healthy brain is a generally healthy lifestyle. But don’t put pressure on yourself to do all of these activities and eat all of these foods everyday! Small actions performed on a consistent basis are what have a positive impact. Comment to let us know your favorite brain health activities and foods!