Judging by how many billions of dollars people spend every year on weight loss, hair care, white teeth, and beautiful skin, it’s obvious that tens of millions of people care about their physical health and wellness. However, what about improving their brain health? This is a sadly neglected aspect to many people’s healthcare regimens. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to improve your brain health. Keep reading to learn what you can do to improve your brain’s health, as well as what supplements can do to help you.
Things You Can Do to Improve Brain Health…
Lower Your Blood Sugar
The human brain uses up more energy than every other individual organ in the body, and it primarily uses glucose for a fuel source. The good news is that the standard American diet provides plenty of sugar to fuel the brain, but the bad news is that this same diet provides way too much of it for good overall health. Unfortunately, too much sugar can not only negatively impact your cognitive skills but even your self-control. Sugar acts like a drug on the brain it makes you high and triggers a desire for more. Cutting back on sweet foods, salty foods and fatty foods can help minimize your overeating and reverse weight gain.
You probably already know that lower cholesterol means better overall health. But how does this relate to your brain and mind? Cholesterol has a bad reputation for causing heart disease, but it’s also crucial for human health. It’s vital for the production of steroid hormones, cortisol, hormones for both genders and it even plays a role in creating cellular membranes. The brain only accounts for 2 percent of the total weight of the body, but it accounts for 25 percent of the overall cholesterol.
Given how much cholesterol can impact cardiovascular health, it has a tremendous impact on the blood-brain barrier and the overall impact of your brain health. Exercise can reduce bad cholesterol, as can diet, both of which can improve the efficiency and function of your brain. The impact of cholesterol medications on the brain is a story as complex as the brain itself, but it does seem that they tend to improve mortality and memory functions, while reducing the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Exercise and The Brain
Physical exercise isn’t just something that improves your bodily health, it also helps your brain remain sharp. Even 20 minutes a day of light exercise helps your brain process anything it’s working on while improving memory recall, storage and attention span.
Exercise always increases your heart rate, which means more blood pumps to your brain, bringing crucial oxygen, nutrition, and fuel. Exercise also gets the body to release a multitude of hormones, many of which promote growth and nourishment of brain cells. In fact, exercise directly stimulates the brain into growing its own new neuronal connections.
Improved Blood Pressure
Much like cholesterol, blood pressure doesn’t just impact your heart, but also your brain. The huge risk for the brain is a stroke, but over time your quality of life can decline if you have chronic issues with your blood pressure. High blood pressure hurts the cells lining your arteries, which limits blood flow of blood everywhere in the body, but most especially to the brain. In time this can result in an aneurysm, which can directly lead to internal bleeding in the brain.
Specific risks to your brain include transient ischemic attacks, strokes, and even vascular dementia. Fortunately, you can do things to prevent these serious conditions. You can lose weight, reduce sodium intake, and use drugs or medication to lower your blood pressure.
Meditation is an ancient practice, but modern technologies like EEGs and fMRIs are starting to confirm the practical benefits of it. These tools confirm good changes in overall grey matter volume. Other research demonstrates how meditation improves psychological wellness, concentration, and attention span. It also is effective for lowering levels of depression and anxiety.
One of the biggest benefits of meditation is the improvement in how much active grey matter participants have. Those who practice for 20 years are measured to have more active grey volume all throughout their volume, sometimes even compared to younger non-meditators. Meditation is also known to positively affect general anxiety, social anxiety, addiction, and issues with addiction.
Sleep and The Brain
When you don’t get enough sleep, you wake up in the morning feeling physically sluggish. It’s not just your body though, your brain cells wind up feeling sluggish as well. When your brain cells get tired, you are more likely to be easily distracted and forgetful. Sleep deprivation hurts the communications between brain cells, leading to short-term lapses in memory and visual perception.
The general guideline is for adults to get between 7 to 9 hours each night, although this will vary from one person to the next. Seven hours is plenty for some adults, but others do better with 8 to 9.
Everyone knows that when you quit smoking it improves your physical health, specifically it helps prevent cancer, lung issues, and heart problems. However, smoking also hurts the brain. It’s by nature addictive and it can lead to depression over time. Quitting smoking lowers the levels of stress, depression, anxiety, and negative moods. It can also mean needing lower dosages for mental health medications.
Research shows that quitting smoking has just as much positive impact on the brain as taking antidepressants. If you’re having trouble quitting, there are many options to try: including nicotine gum, the patch and oral medications.
The Role of Supplements in Improving Brain Health
Keeping your brain in great health obviously involves many aspects including a healthy lifestyle, proper diet and exercise. However, regular socialization and stress also are important factors. Having said that, you need to be aware of the benefits of dietary supplements that may also enhance your brain health. how can you as a consumer know which supplements to take?
What should you look for? What specific benefits can you glean from each supplement? Fortunately, answers to these questions await you in the following paragraphs. Several specific supplements in particular that can really help you keep your brain health include fish oil supplements, fish oils, and B-complex vitamins.
a. Fish Oil Supplements
The impact of fish oil supplements on brain health has been documented through quite a bit of research. Recent studies have shown that certain fish oils at the right dosages can actually delay how long it takes for Alzheimer’s disease to onset. Specific omega-3 fatty acids that health experts recommend include EPA and DHA.
DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, should be taken at a minimum of 250mg per capsule, with daily intake of 1,000 to 1,500mg at a minimum. EPA should be at least 600mg each day to get brain benefits.
As with anything health related, only start fish oil supplements under the care or direction of your doctor or physician. Also make sure that you take them with lots of water and at mealtime. Start off with lower doses before building up slowly to the max dose, as you can tolerate and your physician will allow.
Fish oil is typically safe for most users, but there are impacts on bleeding. That means caution must be taken if you’re already taking anticoagulants like coumadin. Fish oil doesn’t just promote brain health it also seems to have a positive impact on cholesterol, meaning this supplement packs a double punch against Alzheimer’s.
b. B Vitamins
Proteins from meat sources result in high levels of a certain amino acid known as homocysteine, and it leaves the brain more susceptible to beta-amyloid. This is a toxic material strongly associated with Alzheimer’s. A combination of high homocysteine and low folic acid levels show a substantial correlation to heart disease and dementia.
B vitamins can lower homocysteine levels. Research shows that high doses of B12, B6, and folic acid can reduce the rate of brain shrinkage by as much as a third, with the greatest impact being with those who had the most elevated levels of homocysteine.
As always, consult your physician before starting any supplement, but if you’d like to try and prevent or slow Alzheimer’s and other forms dementia, consider 20mg of B6, 800mcg of folic acid, and 500mcg of B12 each day.
c. Vitamin D
Based on how powerful it is in protecting against both dementia and general cognitive decline vitamin D is definitely another supplement to consider. Recent research shows that more than half of all adults are actually deficient in their levels of vitamin D. This happens for several reasons, including insufficient exposure to natural sunlight, aging, and obesity. Sunlight is necessary for the human body to make vitamin D. As people age their ability to absorb and produce or synthesize vitamin D decrease. Obesity is a serious health condition that reduce how much vitamin D is available, this is because fatty tissue can trap this fat-soluble vitamin.
Some 2014 research suggested that those who had low levels of vitamin D were twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. To get natural vitamin D at sufficient levels you should spend 10 to 15 minutes daily in direct sunlight, the best time to do this is between 10 in the morning and 3 in the afternoon. If you can’t get outside you might need a vitamin d supplement ranging from 1,000 to 2,000IU each day. Only do vitamin D supplementation under the management of your doctor, as blood testing might be necessary to monitor your levels.
Season Things Up
Turmeric is most effective as a food additive instead of as a supplement; it’s a medicinal spice you can work into your diet. Curcumin, the active component of turmeric, helps to lower your risk of Alzheimer’s and it promotes better brain health. Want to make the most of its benefits? Eat it paired with some kind of medium chained fatty acid, which can be found in coconut oil, palm kernel oil and dairy products. This will give you even more protection from dementia. You can also increase your absorption rate of turmeric if you also add piperine to your seasoned dish; piperin is an alkaloid you can find in black peppercorn.
Supplements come in many different grade levels, and the best one is usually going to be pharmaceutical grade. Prescription supplements can help make sure you get the highest-caliber products. Most health food stores will also carry high quality supplements, pick the best product you can find. Talk to your doctor for specific recommendations for any kind of supplement, as well as information about how and when to take them.
Always read the labels of supplements you are looking at. Try to avoid buying anything with hurtful components, such as soybeans, gluten, dairy, or corn. Also avoid artificial ingredients and coloring preservatives. Verify whether or not your particular product requires refrigeration. Failing to do this can spoil a supplement quickly and make it very dangerous to take. Also make sure products have the right kind of packaging to protect them from light. This is why you’ll see so many supplements in amber-colored glass containers.
Supplements aren’t medications, which means the FDA doesn’t strictly regulate them. Make sure you look for seals of approval. NSF International, ConsumerLab.com, United States Pharmacopeia or USP, can denote pure products that lack pesticides, mercury, lead, and arsenic, that might be found in uncertified supplements. Make sure the products are in tamper-proof and vacuum-sealed containers. This doesn’t just ensure maximum freshness, but also product safety.
Improving your brain health is a wonderful investment into a higher quality of life both now and in the future. The mind-body connection is strong, anything you do for your brain is also going to do wonders for your body. It is obvious that things like eating well and exercising benefit your entire being. But there’s more, you are likely to look better too. This is not just a physical thing; you look better because your mood and confidence improve, and confidence is attractive. Your brain is one of the most important organs in your body, so you need to take care of it. Hopefully, the information we have looked at will improve your health and boost your brain power for many years to come.