9 of the Best Ways to Protect Your Brain
Your brain is a highly complex machine that is responsible for every single thing you do, think, feel and say.
With more neurons than stars contained in our galaxy, your brain is considered the executive control centre of your body. As such, it supervises every thought, feeling, memory, mood, and action that you undertake.
Your brain is what makes you… you!
Yet most people often don’t think twice about this vital organ. Following are 9 practical things you can start investing in today to protect your most valuable organ.
9 Practical Ways to Care for Your Brain
(1) Eat a brain-healthy diet
The right nutrition is essential for your brain to function optimally. A brain-healthy diet starts with whole foods and includes ample fresh fruits and vegetables spanning all colours of the rainbow. In fact, with each meal you should aim to fill 3/4 of your plate with these antioxidant-rich and nutrient-dense foods. The darker the colour, the better! The other quarter of your plate should consist of quality fish, poultry or meats, along with raw nuts or seeds and healthy fats like avocados and extra virgin olive oil.
(2) Stay hydrated
Every body system needs water to function, and your brain is no different. In fact, your brain is made of about 80% water, so keeping it hydrated is important to keep it full, plump, and active. This means activities that dehydrate the brain, like consuming excessive amounts of alcohol or caffeine, can impair cognitive function and reduce performance - especially in tasks that require attention, memory recall, and physical skills. So fill up your reusable water bottle often to keep your brain happy!
(3) Balance your blood sugar
Maintaining balanced blood sugar levels throughout the day is important for many reasons - including proper brain function. Low blood sugar levels have been associated with less overall blood flow to the brain, irritability, depression, poor impulse control, and poor decision-making skills. So keep your blood sugar levels balanced with 4-5 healthy snacks or smaller meals throughout the day, sip on green tea, and take a quality multiple vitamin-mineral supplement that includes chromium along with other nutrients.
(4) Take time out for fun
Engaging in meaningful and fun-filled activities regularly will increase your dopamine levels naturally. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is activated when our pleasure centres are signalled, making us feel good. When it’s depleted, we can experience low motivation, low mood, and apathy. Though it’s important to activate the pleasure centres deep in the brain, its equally important not to over-stimulate them. Excessive video games, gambling, substance abuse, and compulsive eating or shopping can wear out these pleasure centres. When this happens we have to try harder to stimulate dopamine release, which usually leads to greater compulsions and addictions, or dangerous risk-taking activities.
(5) Engage in regular exercise
Engaging in regular exercise or physical activity may be the most important thing you can do to keep your brain healthy. Why? Exercise increases blood flow to the heart and brain to keep these organs in shape. It also increases dopamine levels, brings more nutrients to the brain, and triggers the creation of new nerve cells. Even if all you can do is take a walk around the block, know that you are helping to clear your mind, improve your mood, decrease anxious feelings, and burn some calories - all at the same time.
(6) Get enough quality sleep
I know this may be a challenge for most people, especially if your brain won’t shut off at night. But studies repeatedly show that getting at least 7 hours of sleep each night helps your brain function optimally. When you don’t get enough sleep, there is reduced overall blood flow to the brain and a build up of harmful waste products, toxins, and plaques in brain tissue. This can disrupt thinking, memory, concentration, and productivity. Some progressive corporations are also asking prospective employees how many hours of sleep they get each night - and may pass on someone who gets less than 7 hours of sleep on a regular basis.
(7) Practice Relaxation
We all need opportunities to recharge our batteries and engage in self-care practices from time to time. Doing so is vital to both our physical and mental health. Learn how to counteract the negative effects of stress and calm your body to enhance your mood, lower blood pressure, improve brain function, and protect you from certain illnesses. Find activities or hobbies you enjoy that also relax you, like knitting, spending time in nature, deep breathing, soaking in a hot bath, or reading some mindless fiction.
(8) Practice brain safety
Protecting your head from injury should be a no-brainer! However, it’s often helpful to be reminded of some simple brain safety tips that can reduce your risk of injury and concussion. These include wearing a seat belt when riding in a vehicle, wearing a helmet when on a bike, motorcycle, rollerblades, skateboard, snowboard, or skis, and avoiding high-risk sports where you can hit your head. The more blows to the head you experience, the greater your risk for dementia in the future.
(9) Minimize alcohol
Alcohol, like all indulgences, should be used in moderation. It negatively affects the brain and body, even if you only consume one drink per day. And yes, I’m referring to all forms of alcohol - including wine and beer. Brain scans of people who drink daily look toxic - pitted with many areas of reduced blood flow. And reduced blood flow to the brain results in poor performance, mood instability, and poor memory recall. Alcohol can also negatively impact our ability to make wise decisions, disrupt sleep, and impair our ability to drive - putting us (and others) at risk for brain injury.
In addition to following these basic steps, you should also fuel your brain with neuronutrition and the right nutrients.
Brain-Healthy Nutrients for Everyone
As such a complicated interface, your brain requires several vital components to ensure it continues to work well. If you are lacking in any of these nutrients, your brain cannot function optimally - regardless of wether you are a student, homemaker, athlete, or executive.
A brain-healthy diet and the right foods can help promote brain health, but studies show there is often a gap between the food you eat and the nutrients you need. As our soils continue to become depleted of their nutrients or thinned through irresponsible agricultural practices, the food derived from these soils are lacking nutrients they may one have had.
Though supplements are not replacements for proper nutrition, they are often needed to help fill in the gap, and many of us should be adding high-quality dietary supplements to our regime.
Without the right vitamins, nutrients, essential minerals, and essential fatty acids, we may find it difficult to manage daily routines, engage in challenging activities, study for an important exam, or prepare for your quarterly presentation.
To prevent periods of fatigue, depression, and memory issues, your may need to add a few key supplements to your plate, including vitamin D, omega 3 fish oil, magnesium, and vitamin E. These nutrients can go a long way in helping you stay focused and sharp.
If you’d like more help optimizing your brain function, improving your memory, kicking addictive eating habits, or learning how to improve the quality of your sleep through natural means, consider working with me. I will help you create a realistic plan that works with your lifestyle, needs, and individual goals.