June is Brain Awareness Month, but it’s always a good time to learn more about how we can support the health of the most complex and critical organs in our bodies.
Our brains are exposed to harmful stress every day due to lifestyle and environmental factors, resulting in a process called oxidation that can affect brain cells. Nutrient-dense foods can help with this oxidation and support brain health in significant ways.
Here are some that are particularly brain-boosting:
- Oily fish like salmon and sardines can help maintain mental health and support cognitive function. Omega-3 fatty acids promote the growth of new brain cells as well as memory.
- Turmeric supports the growth of new brain cells memory.
- Walnuts contain DHA, which has been shown to support cognitive function during aging. They even have a shape similar to the brain, so it’s easy to remember!
Stimulate your mind.
Reading, writing, doing crossword puzzles, playing games, etc. all help stimulate your mind and brain, encourage new connections between nerve cells, and can even contribute to the formation of new cells.
Poor sleep can impact mental and cognitive function, so it’s important to prioritize sleep as much as any other wellness practice. I advise you to pay special attention to your stress levels and see a doctor if your sleep is affecting your quality of life.
Manage your stress.
Speaking of stress, keeping stress at bay and helping to manage what you can’t eliminate is crucial to your overall well-being and brain health. Research has found that in otherwise healthy individuals, stress can cause areas of the brain associated with emotion, metabolism, and memory to shrink in volume.
Move your body.
In addition to the many benefits of physical activity that you probably already know, such as improved mood and energy, reduced stress, improved cardiovascular health and longevity, aerobic exercise can also activate certain brain benefits.
Did you know that our brain is made up of 75% water? Hydration is important for so many crucial functions in our bodies, and our brain health is no exception. Because of this, insufficient hydration (even if it’s minor) can lead to lightheadedness, decreased mental clarity, and headaches, to name a few.
Have a community and stay connected.
Connecting with our community and participating in social activities are linked to longer brain lifespans. Socializing helps reduce stress and activates the mind for many brain-boosting benefits.
Learn something new.
Studies show that everyday forms of learning trigger neuron receptors that help our brain cells perform at their best. This process is also linked to theta rhythms, which are learning-related brain rhythms that play an important role in encoding new memories. Music, dance, art, and movement also help with neuroplasticity, where the brain can rewire and form new neural connections to grow and change shape. Fascinating!
Poor mental health can change the physical shape of the brain, and we know that self-care can support positive mental health outcomes. Regardless of how you take care of yourself, these tools can help keep your body systems running smoothly, including your brain.
Practice preventative health care.
Smoking and other heart and metabolic problems can all affect your brain health (read more about the connection between your heart and brain health here). There are a number of things you can do to reduce these health risks: e.g. checkup annually and adopt the brain-supporting habits mentioned above. It’s never too early (or too late) to take care of your brain!
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