It is common to hear information about the importance of staying physically active to be in optimal shape as you age. In fact, the same can be said for brain health. The brain is the control center for our bodies, in charge of how we move our bodies, the things we think, and how we process the things we see and hear. By protecting our brain health, we can help to avoid damage and disease.
As we age our brains naturally change- this is termed “brain plasticity”. This can be seen through portions of the brain shrinking in size, particularly those pertaining to our learning. In addition, blood flow through the brain and communication between neurons can decrease. These can affect our ability to focus on more than one task as well as our ability to recall information. This is not quite the same as Alzheimer’s disease where memory and thinking skills deteriorate over time. Alzheimer’s symptoms can appear many years after damage in the brain has been done, and include poor judgment leading to bad decisions, taking a long time to complete daily tasks, trouble handing money, getting lost, and mood or personality changes.
Fortunately, there are ways we can support our health to reduce inflammation and oxidation in the brain. Foods such as oily fish, dark chocolate, berries, nuts and seeds, coffee, avocados, eggs, and dark green vegetables like kale and broccoli provide the body with vitamins and are extremely high in antioxidants. These foods are considered nutrient dense, meaning they are packed with more nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, protein and dietary fiber, as compared to the number of calories in the product.
Lifestyle changes that can also influence our brains include staying hydrated, getting regular exercise, getting enough sleep, reducing our stress levels, and limiting alcohol intake. By implementing some of these practices, we can aim for optimal brain health.
Maintaining brain health is just one way we can work to prevent disease later on as we age. I challenge you to pick ONE practice to add into your lifestyle in order to see benefits in your own brain health. Over time it will feel natural and you might consider implementing another!