Improve brain health following these 10 Tips (Part 2)
10 Ways to Improve Brain Functioning (Part 2)
Missed Part 1? click here
One of the most frequent questions we are asked at A Mind For All Seasons is, “How do I keep my brain healthy and active?”. With Alzheimer’s cases on the rise, people everywhere have noticed an increase in the number of articles, blog posts, videos, books, commercials and interviews about things that can boost brain functioning and cut your risk of developing dementia. With so much out there, it is easy to get overwhelmed and fail to make progress, so we decided to simplify what the research has shown and provide ten key things you can do. We encourage you to start with one thing on the list and work at it until you have improved in that area. Then, one by one, add others until you have transformed your lifestyle into one that helps you improve brain health. Part one of this series reviewed the importance of physical activity, a brain healthy diet, good sleep, optimal hormone levels, and social activity. Here are two more approaches to add to your list.
Brain training is quickly becoming recognized by many people as an important part of a brain healthy lifestyle. Programs like Lumosity and Brain HQ are excellent ways to challenge your brain with a variety of tasks that increase in difficulty as your ability improves. One of the principles behind these programs is the importance of novel experience. Many people stimulate their minds through crosswords, sudoku, puzzles, and other similar activities. These types of games can be enjoyable, but they tend to use the same neural pathways. The brain is more stimulated by new experiences, so brain training that changes over time, travel to new locations, and even using your non-dominant hand for familiar tasks may be more beneficial than completing the latest crossword.
An often overlooked way to improve brain functioning is to improve gut health. The gut has been called our second brain and a growing body of research looks at the way the gut and brain communicate via the vagus nerve. Our immune system also emanates from the gut. To protect and strengthen the delicate microbiome in your gut, make sure you avoid processed foods and artificial sweeteners, eat lots of dark leafy greens and other vegetables, avoid unnecessary antibiotic use, and eat a serving of fermented food every day- things like pickles, sauerkraut, kimchee, kombucha or kefir- that are loaded with good bacteria. Acid reducing medications like Prilosec should also be avoided unless absolutely necessary since long-term use of acid reducers has been linked to cognitive decline. This is because reducing stomach acid may eventually lead to malabsorptive disorders. Malabsorption occurs when your gut lacks the stomach acid necessary to break food down completely and your body is unable to obtain the nutrients in the food. Magnesium deficiency, for example, can be caused by a malabsorptive disorder.
There are two more key things you can do to improve brain functioning, so don’t miss the final installment of this series!