We are learning more every day about how complex the brain is, but we haven’t heard much about how crucial it is for optimizing health. We know how hard it is to function on a daily basis when we are tired and in a so-called brain fog. Every action we take involves the brain.
Your brain sends signals to your body for the functions you need. That may be reading a book or making dinner for your family. The problems arise when diseases of the brain impact how it can function.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease where the changes in the brain end up in neuron loss. In short, when someone has Alzheimer’s, that person experiences cognitive decline and won’t be able to function independently anymore. If you’ve ever watched a loved one suffer from Alzheimer’s you know how devastating this disease can be.
The good news is, there are things you can do that will reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Keep reading to learn how optimizing your brain can influence your chances of avoiding this dreaded disease.
Sleep is as essential as water and food, but we treat it like it’s a luxury. Today, many of us are so busy doing all the things we consider necessary, that we take quality sleep for granted.
When you don’t sleep, you can’t form or maintain those pathways in your brain that allow you to create memories and learn new things. You also can’t concentrate well when you don’t get proper sleep. According to the CDC, around 35% of Americans get less than seven hours of sleep each night. (1)
Sleep impacts many areas of your health, including your blood pressure, heart, and brain health. Excessive sleepiness can even result in accidents due to poor response times. When you don’t get sufficient sleep, your brain can’t clean itself, and that leads to toxic build-up and cognitive decline. Even one night of poor sleep can affect your brain, so taking action now will improve how your brain functions.
If you want to optimize your brain and reduce your Alzheimer’s risk, set a consistent bedtime routine and stick with it. That means you go to bed and get up at the same time each day, even on weekends. Create a sleep haven in your bedroom by making the room dark and cool. Limit distractions and don’t have any blue light interaction at least one hour before bed. Your social media updates can wait! (2)
You’ve likely heard many times that exercise is good for your body. It’s also great for your brain health. When you exercise, you have less stress and better processing of emotions. You’ll also have increased blood circulation. When it comes to your brain, exercise will decrease brain fog, improve your memory, and prevent neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s.
Movement increases synaptic plasticity, which is the ability of synapses to strengthen or weaken the structures of the brain. Synaptic plasticity can grow by doing something that directly affects the synaptic structure. When you exercise, it impacts those structural and functional changes, especially in the hippocampus, which is critical for memory function. The hippocampus is where short-term memories get converted into long-term memories. Alzheimer’s disease can damage your hippocampus. That is why exercise is critical for improving your cognitive function, which is responsible for reason, judgment, memory, and critical thinking skills.
Remember, some exercise is better than none at all. Sometimes we get caught up in the complications of specific exercise trends, and make it harder than it has to be. You can take a walk or ride your bike. Some people take up gentle yoga exercises or go swimming several times per week. The key is to get moving and do something you can stick with. Create a routine and maintain it to optimize your brain health. (3)
You may not have thought about how the food you eat affects your brain, but it requires fuel like the rest of your body. When you feed your brain the proper kind of fuel, it helps you and your brain function better.
You’ve probably had those moments when you felt “hangry.” That is the combination of hungry and angry. It could be because you’ve been busy doing something physical or mental, and your brain is sending your body the signal that it needs more fuel. Keep in mind, when we discuss nutrition, we mean nutrient-dense foods that nourish and optimize your brain function.
When you want to eat for better brain health, you should stick to whole foods as much as possible. Avoid all processed foods, which can cause inflammation and brain fog. Sugar is terrible for brain health and causes inflammation. Chronic inflammation has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.When you have high blood glucose levels, it can affect your brain’s functional connectivity and even cause your brain to shrink. That shrinkage causes you to lose brain capability. (4)
One of the best ways to increase your brain health is to include omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. When you increase your DHA levels, it can improve your memory and reaction time. You can get omega-3 fatty acids from fish like mackerel, salmon, and sardines. If you don’t like eating fish, you can also take a quality omega-3 supplement.
You can also optimize your brain by consuming vitamin-rich produce, like leafy greens and antioxidant-rich fruits. These foods are packed with nutrients that your brain can use for fuel. Eating them regularly can make a difference in your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. So, load up on those veggies and fruits. Berries make a sweet treat, and they are powerful nutrients against cognitive decline.
Nuts that are raw or dry-roasted are full of vitamin E. Vitamin E has brain-protective qualities, so consuming a handful a few times a week can have positive effects on your brain. (5)
When you want to reduce your risk for Alzheimer’s by optimizing your brain, a combined approach may be your best bet. You already know that eating well and exercising can improve your health. You also are certainly aware that you feel much better when you get enough quality sleep.
If you want to optimize your brain, using all three approaches increases your chances of avoiding diseases like Alzheimer’s. You will not only improve your cognitive function, but you will also improve your overall health.
It doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated to take care of your brain. All you need are a few simple steps to make a lifetime routine that will keep your brain functioning well. Your lifestyle may play a bigger role in your risk for Alzheimer’s than your genetics, so work on making these changes today. You can’t change your genetics, but you can improve your brain health by improving your sleep, exercise and nutrition. As always, if we can help you on your wellness journey, contact us today for consults or with questions about a healthy lifestyle.