There are few parts of the body more critical than our brains. Not only for our cognitive processes such as concentration and analysis, but for regulating our bodily functions. Our brain is responsible for our breathing, for keeping our heart beating, for our blood pressure and sleep patterns.
Given all this, you want to make sure that your brain is performing at its best. A strong, healthy brain is critical to both unconscious functions of our bodies and clear thinking and good decision making. Poor brain health can have many affects, including serious health problems such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Here are some simple things you can do to improve brain health and boost brain power.
Eat Brain Foods
Certain foods contain vitamins and minerals which not only promote brain health but boost brain functions such as concentration. Eating complex carbohydrates and fibre rich foods such as whole-grain bread and pasta, beans and vegetables have been shown to reduce risks of brain inflammation and promote better problem solving. Blueberries contain a chemical which helps protect the brain from toxins in the environment, as well as decreasing free radicals which can damage brain cells.
Additionally, certain foods, beverages and herbs have been found to have impacts on specific brain-related diseases. One study found that drinking a cup of black tea every day reduced the risk of developing Parkinson’s Disease. Green tea, on the other hand, lowers the risk of blood clots and therefore stroke. Other research indicates that the ancient Chinese herb Gingko can be used to treat Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Rest Your Brain
Just like any other part of your body, the brain needs to be rested from time to time. If we overwork our brain through concentrating and multitasking for long periods of time without a break this can cause the hippocampus to shrink. The hippocampus is the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning, meaning that over-exercising your brain will make it progressively harder over time to concentrate.
Instead, take regular five minute breaks in between tasks, particularly those involving multi-tasking. Be aware that a break does not mean watching TV or checking social media, but rather something that involves resting the brain completely. This could be stretching, meditating or going outside for a few minutes.
Load Up On BCAAs
Amino acids are organic compounds and the building blocks which make up protein. They are critical to just about every metabolic process in our bodies. Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are a special type of amino acid, and make up 40% of the essential amino acids required by mammals.
Branch chain amino acid research shows that BCAAs are important for brain function because they are required to build certain proteins necessary for brain functions, including neurotransmitters and neuromodulators. Eat a protein-rich diet which includes meat, dairy, eggs, fish, beans and nuts, all excellent sources of amino acids. You can also take nutritional supplements to make sure you are getting enough BCAAs in your diet.
We all know that stress is not good for us, but did you know that it can harm your brain? When we are under stress , our bodies release certain hormones such as cortisol, to help us deal with the situation. When we are continually under stress for long periods of time, these hormones can have a number of negative effects. These effects include impairing memory and interfering with neurotransmitters. Some scientists even warn that cortisol can kill brain cells, meaning that long-term stress will shrink the brain.
Tackle stress by getting enough sleep, taking regular exercise, adopting relaxation techniques and avoiding caffeine, alcohol and nicotine. It is also important to identify the underlying cause of your stress – which could be a problematic work situation or issues within personal relationships – and address, minimise or eliminate this if possible.
Go For a Walk
Walking is beneficial for the brain because sustained moderate cardiovascular exercise (such as walking) stimulates the part of the brain which produces more brain cells. This keeps this section of the brain healthy making sure it continues to incubate and grow new brain cells. Experts say that going for a walk for at least 25 minutes without a break a minimum of three times a week will keep this part of the brain in shape.
Train Your Brain
You can literally train your brain to perform better through certain techniques and exercises. Games are a great way to do this and can increase brain function, particularly memory. This is especially important as we age and memory and other brain functions start to deteriorate from around age 60.
One way to do this is by playing the same games which are designed to help children develop better memory and brain function, whether on your smart phone or physical games such as memory cards. There are also some easy brain training exercises you can do yourself. Write down a list of items such as a shopping or to do list, memorise it and then see how many items you can recall after one hour. Finally, learning a new skill, whether a language, musical instrument, dancing or cooking a new style of cuisine, is a great way to exercise your neural pathways and keep your brain fit.