3 ways to improve your brain health
Bold had a blast at our inaugural Be Bold Healthy Aging Summit on February 9th, 2022 with our incredible guest speakers. This week, we are highlighting an interesting discussion on brain health with AJ Cipperly, the National Director of Memory Care at Five Star Senior Living.
AJ shared invaluable tips on ways to maximize brain function, while minimizing risk as we age. Brain health is something we can optimize at any any stage of our lives, and has the most significant impact on our overall health.
According to AJ, the three keys to minimize cognitive decline are to exercise more, use your brain, and eat right. As simple as it seems, these actions to maximize brain health can make a tremendous impact on cognitive health, as well as improve physical health. Taking a holistic approach to supporting cognitive function encourages alchemy of the mind and body connection. When we take care of one aspect of our health, we are supporting other vital functions of the body.
Below, we summarize AJ’s key points around the importance of these three areas.
1. Exercise more
Oxygen and glucose are essential to brain function, which regular exercise supports. When we exercise on a regular basis, it improves blood flow which brings more oxygen to the brain. It’s important to note that exercise causes the release of endorphins, which helps to manage symptoms of anxiety & depression, and combat the effects of increased cortisol levels. Regulating hormones in the body also improves attention span, verbal reasoning and memory. Studies show that when certain hormones aren't regulated, there can be permanent changes to cognitive function, which can lead to memory loss and a lack of clarity.
2. Use your brain
Over time the synapses in our brain can weaken, affecting our memory permanently. The best way to combat this is to to actively use your brain, by completing new tasks or activities. Changing up a consistent routine can be beneficial because we use more brain power, requiring different areas of our brain to work. Moreover, some activities don’t stimulate the brain as much as other activities, so it is imperative to find engaging tasks that are challenging and require us to learn and process new information. For example, dancing is excellent for brain health, because it requires you to learn new steps and routines on a frequent basis. If you're not into dancing, don't worry! There are so many ways to strengthen the brain. Everything from listening to music, to doing a puzzle, all improve our cognitive health. The key is to always seek new ways to learn.
3. Eat right
It goes without saying that the food we eat has a direct impact on our body, and mind. When it comes to supporting our brain there are specific foods that aid in maximizing cognitive function, and even combat the likelihood of developing illness such as Alzheimer's. A study conducted by Harvard Medical School, found that an increase in foods with omega-3 unsaturated fatty acids, antioxidants, and leafy green vegetables can reduce cognitive decline by nearly 8 years. The Mediterranean diet is one of many diets which support brain health, as it includes plenty of healthy unsaturated fats, vegetables, fruits high in antioxidants, nuts and seeds that are high in omega-3’s. You’ll notice that the Mediterranean diet focuses on whole fresh ingredients, where meat, dairy, refined grains and sugars are all reduced or eliminated. This is due to the impact that these foods have on our brain, some foods being more inflammatory than others, leading to systemic inflammation in the body.
What else affects brain health?
It’s important to address other factors that contribute to cognitive decline, as well as the signs for those at risk. Common factors include stress, poor social relationships, and a lack of sleep. Adequate sleep helps to restore the body, improve memory, and manage stress, while positive relationships improve mood and release good hormones. If you begin to have trouble sleeping, remembering appointments, concentrating, or comprehending simple activities, you might be experiencing cognitive impairment. While these symptoms are more common in adults 65 and over, it can be present at any age due to poor health and stress. However, impaired cognitive function can often be improved through many of the habits discussed. The best way to implement preventative measures, is to start maximizing brain health early on to delay the onset of mild to severe cognitive decline. In many cases, decline in brain health can be reversed or managed so the symptoms do not worsen.
According to experts, 30-60 minutes a day of moderately intense aerobic exercise improves our cardiovascular health, and supports brain function. Bold can make it easy to implement a consistent exercise regimen! Not only are there a variety of programs, but options for every level of fitness. Take a look at some of the programs Bold offers, to find the best fit for you.