Think about staying healthy, and you probably think about diet and exercise. Those are important. But you need to think about brain health.
Neurological health conditions include dementia, strokes, and Parkinson's disease. They account for nine million deaths per year all over the world. As you get older, you need to become more protective of your brain.
What are some habits you should avoid? What does good brain health nutrition look like? What are some simple steps you can take to improve your mental health?
Answer these questions and you can have a healthy and happy brain for years to come. Here is your quick guide.
1. Getting Little Sleep
Sleep is absolutely essential for brain health. It allows cells to repair themselves after a long day of wear and tear. It gives an opportunity for neurons to communicate with each other, preserving memory.
A 2021 study tracked nearly 8,000 adults over 25 years. It found that people who slept less than six hours a night had a 30% higher risk for dementia. This applies to people as young as 50.
You should go to bed earlier and rise later. Try to get at least seven hours of sleep per night. Some people may need more, so be willing to adjust your sleep schedule.
2. Drinking Alcohol
Alcohol can have some health benefits. But even mild consumption can hurt the brain.
A March 2021 study found that people who drank small amounts of alcohol have less gray matter than non-drinkers. Gray matter makes up the parts of the brain that process information. They may suffer from poor memory or dementia.
If you drink alcohol, you should stop. Shift to beverages like tap and sparkling water.
3. Eating Unhealthy Foods
Saturated fats and added sugars damage the heart and pancreas. They do this by spiking blood sugar levels and blocking arteries. High blood sugar and clots can damage the brain, including through strokes.
Shift away from a Western diet. Consider a Mediterranean-style diet rich in vegetables and lean proteins like fish.
You may have heard about brain health supplements or brain health vitamins. Vitamin B pills may help with certain brain functions. But you should talk to your doctor because studies provide differing results.
4. Being Alone
Loneliness can hurt a person's mental health. They feel sad or distant when they aren't around other people.
Being around friends and family can stimulate the senses. Multiple parts of the brain fire when a person engages in conversation.
Even being out amongst strangers can help. Go to a restaurant and engage in some people-watching. Strike up conversations with others around you.
5. Focusing on Negative Things
Dwelling on negative subjects can hurt the brain. It can cause anxiety, which can impede a person's ability to think.
Get into some mental wellness habits. Keep a journal and record positive thoughts in it every day. Engage in a hobby, including sports and arts.
How to Improve Your Brain Health
There's a lot you can do to bolster your brain health. Start by getting good sleep every night. Go to bed early so you get at least seven hours.
Stop drinking alcohol. Switch away from a Western diet high in saturated fats. Consider a Mediterranean diet instead.
Get out and see some people who will stimulate your brain. Record your positive thoughts in a journal. Engage in a productive and healthy hobby.
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