Is it possible to boost brain health?

We’ve heard of ways to boost gut health or heart health – but can you boost your brain’s health as well? Our minds are some of the hardest workers in our bodies, and it’s important to look after our mental well-being. After all, we want the control centre of our brain to remain healthy and intact, right?

There are many ways to give our brains a boost and help them thrive. When our brains are performing at their best, so will the rest of our bodies. It’ll also help fight off neuro-degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

So – what are some ways to improve our mental health?

Eat a good diet

The food you eat plays a key role in keeping your brain and body healthy. Certain foods can help improve your cognitive function, such as your memory or concentration. [1]

The food you eat plays a key role in keeping your brain and body healthy. Certain foods can help improve your cognitive function, such as your memory or concentration

Eggs

You don’t need to eat as many as Gaston from Beauty and the Beast (five dozen!), but an egg every day or so definitely helps. Eggs are excellent sources of vitamins and nutrients linked to brain health, such as vitamins B6 and B12, and choline.

Choline is a micronutrient similar to the vitamin B complex, and encourages a healthy brain and nervous system. Your body uses choline to make acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that regulates your mood and memory. While our body produces some choline on its own, external sources are necessary to prevent a deficit.

B vitamins in eggs, meanwhile, slow the progress of cognitive decline. Folate deficiency has links to dementia, while vitamin B deficiency has links to depression.

Green tea and coffee

That cup of coffee in the morning does more than just add to a hearty breakfast. Caffeine has shown to boost brain function by increasing alertness and focus, and improving memory.

Green tea has several health benefits, since it’s rich in polyphenols and antioxidants. It also contains a high concentration of L-theanine, an amino acid that helps reduce feelings of anxiety. Polyphenols, meanwhile, may protect the brain from cognitive decline and reduce the risk of conditions such as Parkinson’s.

On the other hand, coffee is associated with a reduced risk of depression due to its antioxidant effects that lower oxidative stress and inflammation-related proteins. Some research has also shown that consuming 2–3 cups of coffee a day may reduce the risk of dementia.

Fish

Cans of tuna advertise a concentration of omega-3 fatty acids for a reason. Fatty fish such as salmon, trout, tuna, and sardines are all rich sources of omega-3, which comprises about half of your brain’s fat content.

Brains use omega-3 to create cells in your mind and nerves. These fats become crucial factors in managing your cognitive functions such as learning and remembering. Omega-3 also delays cognitive decline and the onset of dementia.

Some research suggests that regular fish consumption leads to an increase in grey matter in the brain. This area of your brain has a concentration of nerve cells that control your memory and emotions.

Work out regularly

Aerobic exercise gets your blood moving – and that’s good for your brain, too. It increases the level of oxygen in your bloodstream, boosting your brain’s ability to function. It even gives you more energy and improves your mood.

Moderate exercise also has a link to lower risks for conditions related to dementia, such as cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.

It’s essential that you not only work out, but you do it right. This means balancing aerobic exercises such as biking or running with strength training, such as core work or weights. Ideally, you should get 30 minutes of moderate physical activity 5 times a week. [2]

Exercise your brain

It’s not just your body that needs exercise – your brain does, too! Get your brain going with specific activities to improve your cognitive function and train your memory, focus, and critical thinking. And this goes for any age, so don’t wait until you’re older!

Some ways to exercise your brain include [3]:

  • Solving puzzles
  • Playing card games (without gambling!)
  • Reading
  • Dancing
  • Learning new skills
  • Listening to music
  • Meditating
It’s not just your body that needs exercise – your brain does, too! Get your brain going with specific activities to improve your cognitive function and train your memory, focus, and critical thinking

Maintain good sleep quality

We spend about a third of our lives asleep, so it’s clearly an essential aspect of our lives. That goes double for your brain, which needs adequate sleep and rest to function properly. Catching those Zs is as crucial to your survival and health as is food, water, and breathing.

While asleep, your brain creates new neurological pathways that allow you to learn and form memories. It also improves the communication among your neurons and detoxifies itself while you snooze. Think of sleep as your brain’s time to do some housekeeping. [4]

Chronic lack of sleep has associations with poor concentration and memory. It can even lead to brain fog – clouded, sluggish thinking. Your mood is worse when you haven’t rested as well. It’s essential to get as much sleep as is needed for your age group – no less, but also no more!

We spend about a third of our lives asleep, so it’s clearly an essential aspect of our lives

Take care of your feelings

Our emotions are linked to our brains, and managing these emotions is as essential to brain health. If you’re feeling stressed, anxious, exhausted, or depressed – these all lead to poor cognitive function. Poor sleep leads to poor emotional and mental health, especially if your lack of sleep is chronic.

Socialising is one way of caring for your feelings. Deep and healthy connections with peers and loved ones lead to better overall mental and emotional health. Humans are social creatures, born to form communities, and so having that form of support benefits our well-being. In fact, having strong social connections has associations with a lower risk of dementia and higher longevity. [5]

A healthy brain for a healthy life

Keep your brain healthy, fit, and thriving in order to boost your personal well-being and overall longevity. Our brains are key factors in our survival, so it’s in our best interests to take care of them and ensure they’re at peak performance. By eating and sleeping well, exercising regularly, and managing our emotional health – you can boost your brain health and keep it sharp for years to come.

[1] https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-brain-foods
[2] https://www.rush.edu/news/boost-your-brain-health
[3] https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/brain-exercises
[4] https://www.ninds.nih.gov/health-information/patient-caregiver-education/brain-basics-understanding-sleep
[5] https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/12-ways-to-keep-your-brain-young

Photograph: Axel Kock/ShutterStock
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