Your brain is the CEO of your body, sending signals to your whole body, letting each organ know what to do, when to do it, and how much to do.
So improving your brain health is one of the most important things you can do to promote holistic, full-body health. However, knowing how to improve your brain health isn’t easy.
Improving heart health has a simple prescription—eat healthy and exercise regularly. Improving muscular health too—eat healthy, get enough protein, and do resistance training regularly. Brain health isn’t so easy.
Improving and maintaining your brain health doesn’t have to be as complicated as it can sometimes feel. There are tons of ways to give your brain a boost that are easy and effective.
Here are a few of our favorite ways to boost your brain health and keep your brain in tip-top shape as you age.
What Factors Impact Brain Health?
Since your brain is not easy to see or study, it can be challenging to know exactly what affects brain health and what doesn’t. But luckily, medical experts have been researching this for a very long time.
As we age, we are susceptible to developing some form of cognitive decline. The two most common forms are Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Alzheimer’s targets your complex thinking and memory centers, while Parkinson's hits your motor units and memory.
The main goal of improving and maintaining brain health is to keep your brain healthy as you age, to prevent dementia from eating away at your life enjoyment and independence through retirement and old age.
And it appears that researchers have found a major key to maintaining brain health: keep your heart healthy, and your brain will follow.
How Are Heart and Brain Health Connected?
One major study of almost ten thousand participants aged 44 to 79 found connections between several cardiovascular health risk factors and cognitive decline and deterioration of brain matter.
Researchers studied participants looking for relationships between brain health and vascular risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, BMI, and waist-to-hip ratios. The researchers focused their brain health studies on the complex thought centers of the brain, which are thought to be most vulnerable to dementia.
The study found that smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, high BMI, and high waist to hip ratios were all associated with loss of grey and white brain matter.
Grey matter is the outer brain tissue that contains most of the neurons in your brain. Impaired grey matter leads to slowed reactions and processing. White matter is the deeper tissue in the brain, which declines naturally as we age and is responsible for executive functioning and thought processing.
The study found that participants that exhibited cardiovascular risk symptoms were significantly more likely to experience brain atrophy in the areas most susceptible to dementia.
The most important thing you can do for your brain health in the long and short term is to maintain cardiovascular health and eat a healthy diet that supports cardiovascular health.
The Best Things To Do To Improve Brain Health
Knowing the risk factors for increased cognitive decline is important so that you can learn how to avoid them.
Here are the best things you can do to avoid the risk factors for developing cognitive decline.
One of the best things you can do for your brain health is to stay active. Getting exercise regularly is excellent for all aspects of your health, and this includes your brain.
A review of several studies on regular exercise and health found that regular exercise has benefits to both cardiovascular health and brain health for all age groups.
Getting regular activity helps maintain and improve your brain health, as well as your bodily health. This can help you remain independent and physically capable as you age, allowing you more freedom and possibilities in later life.
You should aim to get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise every week. A great way to split this up is 30 minutes five days per week.
You should also do two to four resistance-based workouts per week to promote muscular health.
Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet
Another key step to maintaining your brain health is to eat a heart-healthy diet. That's right—poor heart health can lead to heart disease and cognitive decline, among other things. This is not new advice for people looking to improve and maintain their health, and that’s because it works.
There are a lot of heart-healthy diets out there, from the Mediterranean diet to vegan and vegetarian diets. However, you don’t have to commit yourself to a restrictive diet plan to see benefits to your health or to eat heart-healthy. Instead, be mindful of what you put into your body.
Cut back on red meat, and embrace healthy fats like olive oil, walnuts, and avocados. If you love eating meat, you don't have to get rid of it entirely—just prioritize lean protein, and save the steak for special occasions.
Including leafy greens like spinach, kale, and collard greens can be immensely beneficial. Leafy greens are a great source of nitrates, which can reduce blood pressure and support arterial health.
You should also try to eat plenty of fatty fish and fish oils. Albacore tuna, sardines, and trout are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are believed to decrease blood pressure and reduce the risk of diabetes and obesity.
Of course, other healthy foods can also help boost your overall health—and, likely, your brain cells—like berries rich in antioxidants and other nutrients, dark chocolate, and even a light caffeine boost from coffee.
Focusing on eating whole grains, colorful fruits and veggies, and fatty fish can give your heart and brain a boost.
Focus on Pre and Probiotics
It may be hard to believe, but your gut and your brain are much more closely related than you might think. Your gut is sometimes known as your second brain because your gut bacteria, also known as probiotics, produce the same kinds of neurotransmitters as your brain.
Feeding your gut-healthy bacteria can have a major impact on brain health. In fact, probiotics have such a strong effect that they can even help Alzheimer's patients.
In one study, Alzheimer's patients who were given probiotic fortified milk for 12 weeks scored better on cognitive functioning tests than patients who were not given a probiotic supplement.
There are plenty of great ways to get probiotics and prebiotics, which are the fuel for our probiotic gut bacteria. A great new way is with our VINA prebiotic soda.
VINA is a stevia-sweetened, prebiotic fortified soda alternative that tastes great and is healthy for you. VINA feeds your gut and brain to allow you to maintain and support brain and gut health in the short and long term.
You should also prioritize foods like yogurts with live bacteria and other probiotic foods. Prebiotic foods you should add to your diet include veggies and whole grains.
Brain Health Takeaways
Your brain is one of the most important organs to protect as you age. Understanding the topic of brain health can help older adults and younger adults alike reduce their risk of dementia and any other neurological disorder that can create a mental decline as we age.
Some of the best ways to improve your brain health are to improve your overall health by exercising regularly, eating a heart-healthy diet, and consuming pre and probiotics.
Protecting your brain's health is one of the most important investments you can make in your long-term health, and these healthy habits will last a lifetime. A healthy brain can allow you independence and freedom in later life, helping you avoid Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, brain disorders, and any other cognitive diagnosis associated with age.
Best of all, these healthy interventions to aid the prevention of cognitive decline can lead to a longer life expectancy, so you can enjoy your brain health for years to come.
Protect your brain as best you can. Having a healthy brain leads to a happy and healthy life.
Associations between vascular risk factors and brain MRI indices in UK Biobank | Academic
Physical Activity and Brain Health | NIH
Dietary nitrate provides sustained blood pressure lowering in hypertensive patients: a randomized, phase 2, double-blind, placebo-controlled study | NIH
Moderate consumption of fatty fish reduces diastolic blood pressure in overweight and obese European young adults during energy restriction | NIH
Effect of Probiotic Supplementation on Cognitive Function and Metabolic Status in Alzheimer's Disease: A Randomized, Double-Blind and Controlled Trial | Frontiers In