Everyone forgets now and then. It feels like as we age, sometimes our minds and memories just don’t work like they used to. Unfortunately we’re all at risk for brain degeneration. Statistics show that if we live to age 85 or older, our risk for Alzheimer’s, for example, is as great as 50%. Undoubtedly it makes sense for us to do everything we possibly can to cultivate and maintain a healthy brain. Certain aspects of brain function and memory capability aren’t automatically linked to getting older. It’s our lifestyle choices and whether or not we implement certain routines in our day-to-day lives that contribute to the overall health of our brains and our ability to recall information.
Our food choices can be a highly influential variable that we can regulate in relation to the health, vigor, and functionality of our magnificent grey matter. Food is the fuel that regulates our energy and mood, both of which significantly affect our focus. Just like we shouldn’t put cooking oil into our car and expect it to run at peak performance, we shouldn’t put soda into our body and expect the same. The food we eat has the incredible ability to affect our mental clarity, mood, memory, and ability to focus. When considering how to improve our focus a few of the places we should start with is what we’re eating. Our brain is an energy hungry organ. Despite encompassing only 2% of our body’s weight, our brain uses more than 20% of our daily energy intake. A healthy diet is as good for our brain as it is for our overall health. The brain demands a constant supply of glucose, which, we receive from recently, eaten carbohydrates like whole grains, fruits and greens. If our glucose level drops, it can result in confused thinking. Memory super foods and antioxidant-rich, colorful fruits, green leafy vegetables and whole grains protect our brain from harmful free radicals. Eating foods from low-fat protein sources like fish provide Omega-3 fatty acids and other vital compounds essential for healthy brain functioning as well as for healthy brain neurons. Drinking at least 8 glasses of water daily can be fundamental also, especially since dehydration can lead to memory loss and confusion.
Exercise and activity will also boost brain function by ramping up blood so oxygen and nutrients get around to all parts of our body better, including our brain. Exercise increases our heart rate, which gets blood flowing to our brain, keeping our memory sharp. Physical activity also stimulates the release of endorphins that boost our mood and eases anxiety and depression. Running, swimming, biking – any form of exercise – for at least 30 minutes helps enlarge the hippocampus, which is regarded as the ‘memory center’ of the brain. Inhaling deeply brings a chemical called nitric oxide from the back of your nose and your sinuses into your lungs. This short-lived gas dilates the air passages in your lungs and does the same to the blood vessels surrounding them so you can get more oxygen into your body and brain. Physical activities that require hand-eye coordination or complex motor skills are particularly beneficial for brain building. A consistent workout can help improve our sleep so that we’re less drowsy and irritable, keeping our blood pressure in under control.
Poor sleep takes a toll on everything, from our job and school performance to our daily chores, and especially our memory. Sleep is a key time for our brain to solidify the connections between neurons, thus helping us remember more of our tasks. Sleep, learning, and memory are complex phenomena that aren’t entirely understood. However, animal and human studies suggest that the quantity and quality of sleep have a profound impact on learning and memory. Research suggests that sleep helps learning and memory in distinct ways. When we’re sleep-deprived we can’t focus attention optimally and therefore we can’t learn efficiently. Secondly, sleep itself has a role in the merging of memory, which is critical for learning new and the recalling past information.
Our brain is our most complex organ and it’s also one of our most important. That’s why keeping it healthy is critical, our brain changes, it’s natural. However the central mission of our brain never changes. Its job is to give us perspective and make sense of the world while overseeing our daily operations and life. We should start concerning ourselves with our brain health now. By taking the steps to help keep our brain and body healthy, we can improve our quality of life now and help reduce risks to our brain as we age.