How to look after your brain and memory as your age
Brain health and memory is a common concern. Maintaining brain health and memory is a lot easier than getting it back once it is gone, so it is worth paying attention to. There are certain nutrients, as well as many activities and lifestyle tricks, that can be used to maintain the health of the mind.
Lifestyle tips of brain health and memory
Exercise is an excellent way to keep the mind and body healthy. The increase in blood flow experienced during exercise increases the nutrients that are delivered to the brain which helps it to stay healthy and keep your memory up to scratch. Exercise also triggers the release of feel-good neurotransmitters which help you maintain healthy moods, improves memory and provides an overall sense of wellbeing.
Research has shown that dancing is one of the best forms of exercise for brain health and memory. The combination of physical movement with the beats and rhythms has shown to be hugely beneficial and can even ward off dementia.
Daily meditation is a healthy habit to get into. In the long term it rewires the brain to deal with stress more effectively. Excess stress can interfere with the health of the brain and memory. Studies show that mindfulness training significantly improves visuo-spatial processing, working memory, and executive functioning. Even more astonishingly, just 4 days with meditation can enhance the ability to sustain attention.
Use it or lose it
When it comes to your brain, if you don’t use it, you lose it. So put the calculator down and make the effort to use your brain instead. Brain games and puzzles such as Sudoku have been shown in research to be particularly beneficial for enhancing working memory and to promote healthy cognitive ageing.
Sleep well... but not too much
Adequate sleep is a must have for brain health. The amount of sleep you need varies across the age ranges and with each individual. Sleep is restorative and being deprived of sleep affects your mood, memory, your resistance to stress and your brain function. Too much sleep however can be detrimental. Sleeping more than 8 hours per day could have a negative effect on cognitive function and your reasoning skills.
Foods and nutrients for brain health and memory
There is a lot of water in your brain and staying hydrated is as important to brain function as it is to the function of the rest of your body. Even a 5% decrease in hydration levels can start to impair your cognitive ability. Aim for 1 and a half litres to 2 litres of water per day, and more if you are exercising a lot or are in a hot climate. If you are losing a lot of sweat, consider adding additional electrolytes to your drinking water.
Eat plenty of fibre
A high fibre diet helps to keep your cholesterol levels healthy. Having an excess build-up of cholesterol in your blood vessels restricts blood flow to your brain, reducing its ability to function optimally. High fibre foods such as wholegrains, vegetables and fruit also provide vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients which are also beneficial for brain health.
Nuts, seeds and oily fish
Nuts, seeds and oily fish contain ‘good fats’ that are beneficial to the body. The brain especially needs these good quality fats for its function. Omega 3 is particularly important to brain function, and the majority of the population do not get enough. Omega 3 is found particularly in chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, salmon, mackerel and herring.
B vitamins are essential for the proper functioning of the brain. They are directly incorporated into the coating (myelin) of the brain cells and control communication between brain cells. B vitamins are also needed for the synthesis of neurotransmitters – chemicals which maintain brain health and function.
Ashwagandha is a herb that works directly on the brain. It helps to lower stress and the modulates the level of cortisol released by the body. It does this by modulating the activity of a system called the HPA axis. This is the connection between the hypothalamus pituitary glands in the brain and the adrenal glands which sit on top of the kidneys. Stress impairs the ability of the brain to work optimally, and highly stressed individuals may see a decline in cognitive ability and memory.