In the past two decades, thanks to neuroscience, we have learned more about how the human brain operates than we have in the previous hundred years.
More awareness is now being placed on the importance of brain health because if our brain is functioning optimally, all other areas of our lives from our mental, emotional and physical well-being, will also work well.
Even though our brain is a small organ, making up approximately 2% of our body’s weight, it uses up to 30% of the calories we consume, around 20% of the oxygen we breathe and about 25% of the blood flow in our bodies. It’s astonishing to know our brain is almost 85% water.
The brain is a complex electrical system and the better we take care of it, the better it will work for us.
At a recent seminar I attended, one of the guest speakers was Dr Daniel Amen, a neuroscientist and founder of Amen Clinics. Having scanned thousands of human brains, Dr Amen focuses on educating people on the importance of brain health.
A couple of things he mentioned during his talk that resonated with me were:
- We won’t know exactly how healthy our brain is unless we look. Dr Amen does that by conducting highly specialised brain scans.
- Learning how to take care of our brain is the first and most important step to success, in anything we want do. When our brain is working right, we also work right.
Here are some recommendations Dr Amen suggests that will improve our brain health. The disclaimer here is before making changes to any diet or eating routines or habits, consult with a trained medical professional for advice relevant to your situation.
5 Things That Will Improve Your Brain Health
- Reduce inflammation. Inflammation is caused by fatty acids usually found in junk or fast food, and by poor hygiene resulting in poor gut health. Things that can be done to reduce inflammation include better oral health like brushing your teeth after meals and flossing before going to bed. Other things include improving your Vitamin D and Omega-3 levels by taking supplements or multivitamins.
- Reduce your genetic risk. We can inherit things genetically, and our emotions or environment also can cause changes in our genes. Things that can be done to reduce your genetic risks include adding Vitamin B6, B12 and D, adding blueberries and turmeric to your diet and drinking green tea.
- Eliminate toxins. Toxins are poison for the brain. They are typically consumed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Substances such as alcohol, tobacco and drugs all cause damage to the brain. Ways to reduce or eliminate toxins include limiting your exposure to gasoline fumes or secondhand smoke, avoid alcohol, take supplements such as Vitamin C and magnesium, eat/drink more green leafy vegetables, berries, sesame and sunflower seeds, citrus (except grapefruit), fibre, green tea, salmon, avocados and walnuts.
- Improve mental health. Illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic stress and other problems affecting the mind can wreak havoc on the brain and memory. Positive self-talk has a powerful influence on the brain. Things to do to improve mental health include writing down at least three things you are grateful for daily, talking a walk in nature, meditating, switching negative thoughts to positive thoughts.
- Improve sleeping habits. Not getting enough sleep each night results in lower brain activity. That affects people’s focus, concentration, productivity, and weight. Inadequate sleep increases the risk of developing disorders such as ADD/ADHD, anxiety, and depression, which can also lead to other serious health issues like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. There are habits that will improve your sleep but other things that can be done include avoiding a full stomach before going to bed, avoiding stimulants (chocolate, nicotine and alcohol) before bed, and not using technology in your bedroom.
The better our brain health, the better our mental health will be. The risk of not paying attention to our brain health can be scary and costly in terms of our mental, emotional and physical well-being. It’s not too late to improve our brain health.
Action Step: Pick one thing from the list above and focus on it this week. Also, schedule a full health check-up, ideally within the next month so you are more aware of what you need to focus on.
Question: What is your best tip for improving brain health?