When most people think of being healthy, things like heart health, bone health, and physical fitness tend to come to mind. But what about your brain? This aspect of your overall well-being often gets overlooked, but cognitive health and function can be one of the key aspects of enjoying a healthy, happy life. Like other areas of your health, there are lots of things you can do on a daily basis to give your brain health a boost.
Eating a balanced diet isn’t just great for your muscles and bones–it can also work wonders on your cognitive health. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for normal brain function, and research shows that a deficiency of omega-3s may lead to memory loss and impaired learning (Nature Reviews Neuroscience). Stock up on foods like walnuts, flaxseed, and salmon to make sure your brain’s getting enough of this vital nutrient.
Getting a good night’s sleep is another must-have ingredient for excellent brain power. While you sleep, your body (and brain) has a chance to restore and repair itself. Rather than receiving tons of stimuli as it does all day long, your brain gets to take a breather and reorganize and process information.
Additionally, sleep may actually help your brain to create memories. Acetylcholine is a brain chemical that plays an important role in sleep, dreaming, and making memories. Those affected by Alzheimer’s have been shown to have very low levels of acetylcholine, which also hinders dreaming (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA).
Is there anything that getting regular exercise can’t do for your body? In truth, exercise is one of the best things that you can do for your overall health, and your brain is certainly no exception. Aerobic exercises (things like running, walking, and biking) can improve memory function and logical thinking skills by reducing inflammation and insulin resistance while also stimulating blood flow and brain chemicals (Harvard Health Publications).
Indirectly, exercise can help you to sleep better, eat better, and uplift your mood–all of which can be the icing on the cake, so to speak, of maintaining a sharp mind.
4. Time in Nature
In our busy, fast-paced modern world, many of us just aren’t getting to spend enough quality time immersed in nature as did generations before. But studies show that becoming one with nature can have a significant impact on your mental health and may even reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety (Stanford News).
A simple solution to this modern-day problem might be as easy moving your indoor or urban workout outside to a peaceful and serene space. And don’t be afraid to stop and smell the roses every once in awhile–literally. A nature walk doesn’t have to be quick and hurried. Take your time, enjoy the plants and wildlife, and give your mind and body a chance to slowly recharge.
5. Social Interaction
Loneliness and social isolation can take a toll on your mental health, studies show. Not only do these feelings tend to lead to poor eating, sleeping, and exercise habits, but they may also accelerate memory decline and increase your risk of developing dementia by 64 percent (The Guardian).
The cognitive benefits of staying socially active and engaged are especially important to keep in mind as we become older and wiser, as with age also often comes a decline in memory function. And while some research suggests that online interaction via social media might be enough to keep our brains in tip-top shape, getting out and interacting with others face-to-face can be beneficial for our overall well-being for a variety of reasons (Journal of Medical Internet Research).
The Bottom Line
Keeping your mind and body in great health can sometimes be as simple as making a few small lifestyle changes, like getting a little more exercise, swapping out junk food for fresh fruits and veggies, and even hanging out with friends. If you’re interested in learning more about ways you can boost your brain health, or other health concerns related to women, consider registering today for the Women’s Health Conversations 2016 Conference to be held in Pittsburgh, PA. The aim of this conference is to empower, educate, and entertain women from all walks of life, and we would love for you to become part of the conversation!