Boost Your Brain Health: 3 Simple Steps to Stay Sharp

We’ve all experienced those moments—a forgotten appointment, a name we can’t recall, a word that’s on the tip of our tongue. As we age, these incidents seem to increase in significance, and with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia dominating the news, it’s only natural to fear losing our cognitive abilities. But fret not, there are simple steps you can take to preserve your mental sharpness and maintain overall health.

Fight the Biological Burglars

One of the brain’s biggest enemies is oxidative stress resulting from an excess of free radicals generated by factors like toxins, exercise, illness, stress, and normal metabolic processes. Antioxidant-rich foods, herbs, and supplements can help block the resulting cascade of inflammatory chain reactions that can damage cells down to their DNA.

Blueberries are a rich source of brain-healthy antioxidants, and studies have shown their ability to protect neurons from oxidative stress. Other good options include beans, cranberries, artichokes, prunes, and raspberries. Ginger, sage, rosemary, turmeric, and many other herbs and spices are also packed with antioxidant compounds that protect the brain and support other areas of health.

Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish, flaxseed, raw nuts and seeds, grass-fed beef, and wild organ meat, are highly beneficial for brain health. In fact, a study published in the journal Neurology found that people deficient in omega-3s had smaller brains and performed more poorly in cognitive tests.

Vitamin E, another potent antioxidant, has also been linked to improved cognitive health. Studies have indicated that it can help patients recover after a stroke, and honokiol – a botanical derived from Magnolia bark that is 1,000 times more powerful than vitamin E – has been shown to protect the brain in many ways.

Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, also benefits brain health. A study from the Salk Institute revealed that a drug derived from curcumin reversed Alzheimer’s disease in mice, and other research has shown that curcumin promotes neuron creation and enhances memory.

Working Out the Brain

Multiple studies have demonstrated a strong link between exercise and improved brain function. One project found that women over 65 who walked 30 minutes a day slowed their cognitive decline. When gauging mental acuity, researchers discovered that people who exercised appeared several years younger than those in the control group, who did not exercise at all.

A separate study compared activity levels and brain health in people over 70, finding that the more active group was significantly less likely to develop cognitive problems. Additionally, researchers discovered that straightforward actions, like standing up and walking around the room, were beneficial for our brains.

Research has also proven that exercise can actually increase brain size, an important factor considering that one of the side effects of aging is reduced brain volume, which may be implicated in cognitive decline.

Meditation for Your Mind

The calming effects of meditation are well documented, but some research has shown that the practice actually changes brain architecture. Scientists at UCLA discovered that meditation increases the folding in the cerebral cortex – a process called cortical gyrification – which improves the brain’s ability to process information. Specifically, increased gyrification helps with tasks like retrieving memories, forming decisions, and maintaining focus.

The take-home message here is clear: good practices support overall health at all levels, forming a solid foundation for mind-body wellness, longevity, and vitality. So, stock up on antioxidants, exercise regularly, and meditate for a healthier brain as you age.