The human brain plays a critical role in every area of your life, from learning, working and playing, to personality, aptitude and memory. While the brain is one of the body’s most important organs, it is often forgotten when thinking about physical fitness and overall wellness. Get your mental muscle in shape through four easy steps.
- Nourish your mental muscle.
A diet low in saturated fats and cholesterol, rich in good fats like polyunsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, and packed with protective foods with nutrients such as vitamin E and lutein may support brain health.
What to feed the brain:
- Maximize your intake of DHA, the omega-3 fatty acid that makes up 50 percent of the brain and is a must-have to support lifelong brain health. Find DHA in fatty fish such as salmon and trout, along with fortified foods like juice, milk, eggs, yogurt and dietary supplements.
- Eat a diet rich in vitamin E. Vitamin E can be found in nuts, whole grains, wheat germ and dark leafy greens like spinach, and it is available in supplement form.
- Add lutein to your diet. Dark leafy green vegetables (kale, spinach, collards and turnip greens), egg yolks, peas and corn are super foods when it comes to providing lutein, and it can be found in supplement form.
Always check with your health care practitioner before adding a supplement to your diet.
- Increase your heart rate.
Overall physical health is closely linked to brain health, making a healthy body key to a healthy brain. Exercise significantly improves health in many ways, from helping to maintain a healthy weight and keeping cholesterol and triglycerides levels in check, to maintaining good blood flow to the body and brain and encouraging the growth of new brain cells and connections.
Health tips to try:
- Make time for at least 30 minutes of exercise every day of the week. Exercising is a stress reliever and can even help you feel younger.
- Get approximately seven to eight hours of sleep each day.
- See your doctor and dentist for regular exams.
- Don’t use tobacco.
- Stimulate your mind.
The brain is capable of learning and retaining new facts and skills throughout life, especially with frequent intellectual stimulation. Intellectual curiosity, pursuit of education, even games, reading, and learning new activities are all fun and easy ways to exercise your mind.
Mental engagement to try:
- Find a brain-stimulating activity you like – reading, crosswords, learning a new language – and engage in it regularly.
- Try carving out a little time to meditate when you feel stress is starting to get the better of you, or even when you don’t. Meditation may help to reduce inflammation and stress by soothing the vagus, the part of the brain that controls inflammation and immune response in the body.
- Commit to learning a new word or fact every day and commit to mastering a new skill or subject area every year of your life.
- Get your head in the social game.
Regular social activity promotes creation of new brain cells and supports brain repair. In one study, men and women who had the most social interaction within their community had less than half the rate of memory loss as those with the least social engagement. So help your brain by getting involved in activities like visiting with friends and relatives, club activities, volunteering and socializing at the workplace.
Ways to socialize:
- Keep working as long as you can and want to.
- Volunteer for a cause that is meaningful to you.
- Make friends and family a priority and spend time with them regularly.
- Join clubs or participate in religious/spiritual activities.