Life expectancy in the U.S. in 2022 has shot up to just over 79 years, up quite a bit from the 1950 level of just over 68 years. That’s a lot of time and strain on our organs, especially our brains. Because Americans are projected to continue this upwards trend in life expectancy, more and more attention is being given to conditions that plague older people’s cognition, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
While some of the factors involved in developing cognitive issues in old age are genetic, there are still several things you can do to strengthen your brain’s function and prevent the progression of cognitive disabilities. Luckily, these measures are easy enough for anyone to achieve with just a small effort and some discipline. Our top tips for people who want to boost their brain activity include:
Learn Something New
Crosswords and sudokus are great for retrieving information you already know, researchers are now finding that this simply isn’t enough to ward off the chemical processes that bring on debilitating cognitive conditions like dementia. According to a TED Talk given by neuroscientist Lisa Genova, in order to keep your brain functioning at peak performance, you need to challenge it by learning new information on a constant basis. This can be a new skill, new language, new recipe…the content itself doesn’t matter, what matters is that you’re expanding your brain’s neuroplasticity by introducing and retaining new information. This is one of the most effective ways to prevent the loss of both the ability to learn new information and the ability to retain existing information.
Your brain needs a healthy supply of oxygen, vitamins, minerals, and other elements in order to function properly. The only way to ensure adequate blood flow to the brain, and therefore adequate supply of everything the brain needs, is to keep your cardiovascular system in good shape. Both cardio and weight-bearing exercises are recommended for people as they age to slow the loss of physical and cognitive functions.
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is non-negotiable when it comes to activities that boost your brain activity. Average adults need 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night to function at optimal levels the next day. But don’t be fooled…your brain is doing much more than just relaxing while you sleep.
Microglia, known as the janitor cells of the brain, are busy cleaning out the neuron synapses while you are in deep sleep. Why does this matter? Because one of the substances microglia cleans up from the neurons during sleep is tau molecules. In Alzheimer’s patients, neuron synapses are tangled with tau molecules, and researchers believe that this could be due to microglia not being able to do their jobs because the patient was consistently deprived of adequate sleep. This hypothesis gives sleep a very important role in boosting brain function, preventing cognitive decline, and managing the development of cognitive decline symptoms.
Eat a Healthy Diet
Eating a healthy diet is important for everyone, but it’s crucial for people who want to improve their brain functioning. Your brain needs a balance of nutrients to work as efficiently as possible. The Mayo Clinic recommends the MIND diet for people who are focused on boosting brainpower. The MIND diet uses the following guidelines:
Eat lots of vegetables
This one is a no-brainer. Veggies should comprise the majority of your diet. Eat them raw, sauteed in olive oil, roasted, or grilled…it doesn’t matter how, just get in at least 6 servings of greens each week along with at least one serving of different colored vegetables.
Embrace vegetarian meals
In line with the first guideline, MIND diet followers should incorporate as many meat-free meals as possible into their routines. The ideal MIND diet has four or fewer appearances of meat each week. Instead, opt for protein-rich beans, lentils, and soy-based products.
Cut out processed foods and sugary snacks
Another obvious guideline, and the same as any healthy diet, is avoiding processed foods and sugary snacks, such as chips, candy, soda, and even some juices.
Snack on nuts and berries
Nuts and berries are by far the best snacks you can eat for your brain’s health. Studies have shown that people who snack on blueberries and strawberries show lower rates of cognitive decline. Nuts are packed with vitamin E, which is known for its brain-protecting properties. Opt for fresh or frozen berries without added sweeteners and dry-roasted or raw nuts.
Cook with extra-virgin olive oil
EVOO is a mainstay in most kitchens, so it won’t be too hard to start using it for practically all your cooking needs. Skip on the butter and margarine when possible.
Eat fish every week
Eating fish once per week has been shown to improve memory and cognition. Opt for eco-friendly fish choices to enhance your brain function without harming the environment.
Have a drink or two
Believe it or not, light to moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to lower the risk of dementia and even stave off the development of Alzheimer’s for 2-3 years, so have a guilt-free glass or two of wine each evening. It is important to note, however, that excessive alcohol consumption has the opposite effect and causes cognitive deterioration, so if you have a history of addiction or trouble controlling the amount that you drink, it’s best to skip the alcohol altogether.
Form a Relationship with Your Doctor
Your doctor is your best source of information and guidance when you’re working to keep your mind and body healthy. If you are in need of a qualified physician who focuses on holistic, regenerative care, use our free and easy search tool at www.regenerativemedicinenow.com to find one near you.