You’re what you eat is often used to encourage people to eat healthy and maintain a healthy body. That’s commendable. What about brain health? The state of your brain health contributes to the quality of life and your ability to function at optimal level. Health experts point out that lifestyle and habits have an impact on your brain health. Here are some habits that will set you on the path to sharper, clearer and better brain health:
You’ve heard it often: Exercise is good for you. That advice goes for neural health as well. Exercises cause the nerve cells to multiply and strengthen the interconnections between them, protecting the brain from decline. Physical activities cause greater blood flow to the brain, oxygenating brain cells at the same time. According to Harvard Medical School, a study done at the University of British Columbia show that aerobic exercises appear to increase the size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain linked to verbal memory and learning. Enjoy physical activities such as jogging, playing tennis, swimming, zumba classes or walking the dog—they not only strengthen the body, they improve brain health.
Smells That Empower
Do you love the smell of coffee in the morning or the zest of lemon as you cook? Do you feel more invigorated and energized? And no, your nose is not messing with you. Turns out certain smells have a positive cognitive effect on the brain. According to the National Institute of Health, research reveals that the smell of lavender and rosemary improve math computations. Specifically, lavender improves accuracy and rosemary leads to an improvement in long-term memory. Other smells that improves brain function includes coffee (yes!), cinnamon, sage, peppermint and grapefruit.
Feed Your Brain
The brain needs nutritional nourishment as much as the body. Enjoy a diet high in colorful fruits and vegetables as the antioxidants found therein help to fight radical damage and increase blood flow to the brain to improve neural function. A plant compound, known as luteolin, found in carrots, peppers, celery, olive oil, chamomile, rosemary and peppermint is shown to reduce age-related inflammation in the brain. Unchecked inflammation which may lead to cognitive aging and cognitive decline such as Alzheimer’s disease. Other powerful brain enhancers include most fatty fish (think omega-3 fatty acids), nuts, dark chocolate, spinach and avocados, among others.
Take a Nap
You heard right, take a nap or two and get at least 7 hours of sleep each night. In a world where schedules rule and activities become the grid of life, it’s easy to steal time away from sleep. When it comes to neural health, think twice about cutting back sleep time. A mouse study indicates that sleep has restorative benefits. Sleep flushes out toxins that build up during waking hours, restoring memories and sharpening problem-solving skills and ability to focus on details.
Let Your Brain Play
Allow your brain to play. That means engaging your brain in cognitive-stimulating activities and they don’t have to be just “sit me down and read a book” type of endeavor. Simple activities like playing an instrument, listening to music, square-dancing or spending the evening socializing with friends help the brain to stay active and alert.
How about brain aerobics? These activities challenge your brain to learn new and different tasks. According to Alzheimer's Research and Prevention Foundation, brain aerobics can reduce your chance of developing Alzheimer's disease by 70 percent. So go ahead, enjoy board games, crossword puzzles, problem-solving games or activities, learn a new language or master a new skill.
Habits can break or make you. Adopt these habits to boost your neural health. Having a healthy brain will also keep age-related cognitive decline such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia from making an early appearance.