How healthy is your brain?

Do you know if you have a healthy brain?

Scientific research shows a strong link between lifestyle factors and brain health, which is important at any stage of your life, but particularly around middle age when changes begin to occur in the brain. There is even evidence to show that healthy choices could help reduce the risk of developing dementia.

If your brain is in poor health, you may be experiencing some or all of these symptoms:

  • low energy
  • low mood
  • irritability
  • brain fog
  • anxiety
  • memory and concentration problems
  • impulsive decision-making
  • high blood pressure
  • weight issues
  • sexual dysfunction.

The good news is, you have several options for improving your brain’s health – five, in fact. Based on published research evidence, Alzheimer’s Australia’s preventative program, Your Brain Matters, has created a five-step guide to enhancing your brain function through lifestyle changes alone. After all, prevention is always better than a cure.

Here are the five simple steps you can take to boost your brain’s health:

1. Take care of your heart
Conditions related to the heart or blood vessels, such as obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, can damage blood vessels in the brain, affect cognitive function and increase the risk of developing dementia. And of course, avoid smoking.

2. Exercise regularly
There is strong evidence that shows exercise is a brain booster. Physical exertion increases blood flow to the brain, stimulates the growth of brain cells and reduces the risk of obesity-related health problems. Adults aged 18–64 are recommended to engage in at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most days. If you are not currently active, start gradually with a gentle walk or swim and build up from there. Any exercise is better than none.

3. Give yourself a mental challenge
Scientists have discovered that engaging your brain with new mental challenges and activities can help build new brain cells, strengthen connections between them and enhance your cognitive skills. It may also help to counteract the accumulation of damaging proteins that present in people with Alzheimer’s. You could try something as simple as reading a book or completing puzzles, or even try learning a new sport or language.

4. Follow a healthy diet
Your brain needs a range of nutrients in order to function properly. Healthy ‘brain foods’ include those high in good fats, vitamins, protein and antioxidants, and less saturated fats, sugar and alcohol. Opt for fresh fruit and veggies, lean meat, oily fish, nuts, grains and legumes. 

5. Enjoy social activity
Humans require social interaction for many reasons, including mental and emotional health. Engaging in fun activities with other people can help ward off feelings of isolation and depression, and can improve cognitive function and stimulation.

You may want to take a look at the brain health checklist and see if you tick the boxes.

How do you keep your brain in shape? Would you incorporate these steps into your daily life?

Written by Louise Baxter


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