The brain might be the most highly researched organ, but it’s still the least understood in the human body. What we have learnt is how to best fuel, stimulate and rest our brains for optimum performance and health.
Keeping your brain healthy is essential for living a fulfilling, healthy and long life. It’s never too early or too late to start because you can improve and protect your brain health at any age.
1. Look after your heart: there’s actually a big connection between heart and brain health
2. Be physically active: be active on most, preferably all, days every week
3. Mentally challenge your brain: learn a new sport, language, instrument or even simple things like doing math in your head or brushing your teeth with the opposite hand
4. Follow a healthy diet: Keep reading for the top brain foods and essential nutrients
5. Get a good night’s sleep: it’s recommend you sleep 7 to 9 hours every night. Lack of sleep can impact your cognition, mood, memory and learning.
6. Stress less: keeping calm is important. Too much cortisol (stress hormone) can affect your memory and ability to learn
7. Be sociable: organise regular catch-ups with your family and friends
The brain controls and coordinates movements, feelings, thoughts, breathing and bodily functions. It’s made up of billions of nerve cells which transmit messages using a combination of electrical and chemical activity. For a more detailed description of how each part of the brain works, click here.
Brain cells can’t store energy and require a steady stream of glucose. Complex carbohydrates, found in unprocessed fruits and vegetables, give your brain the sustained energy it needs.
60% of our brains are made up of fat so it makes sense that we need to replenish this regularly, but we need healthy fats, found in avocados, olives, nuts, seeds, coconut oil, grass-fed butter, and fatty fish like salmon, tuna, or mackerel.
Proteins break down into building blocks called amino acids, a major component in neurotransmitters, which are critical in enabling brain cells to communicate with each other. Excellent protein sources are grass-fed meats, free-range poultry, wild fish, organic eggs and dairy.
There are so many great resources and activities available to improve and maintain good brain health. From brain-training games and puzzles to goal-setting programs and calendars that can help track your behaviour and encourage ideal activity and patterns for optimum health. One of the most popular resources on the internet is lumosity.com which provides a range of cognitive games, brain ‘workouts’, reports with detailed insight into your performance and progress, tools to track your training and more. There are free resources and available as well as paid subscriptions for further access to games and reports.
If you’re worried about your neurological or mental health, your first step is to visit your GP. They’ll recommend an appropriate course of action and/or provide any referrals to specialists.