Just in time for Brain Awareness Week next week, here’s an alarming fact: just like muscle, our brains can atrophy too. Over the years, our brain’s ability to withstand neurological damage, from aging and other factors, without showing signs of slowing or memory loss, diminishes. But the news isn’t all bad! There are a bunch of things you can start doing now to increase your brain’s resistance to damage. Here are a few:
- Brain training games, such as Lumosity. Lumosity has taken tasks, created by researchers, which measure cognitive abilities, and adapted them into more than 50 engaging, challenging cognitive games. NeuroNation and BrainHQ also offer similar training exercises.
- Get moving! While it’s important to do exercises that work your mind, it’s also important for your brain’s health to do physical activity as well, because it keeps your mind sharp. Physical activity increases oxygen to your brain and reduces the risk for disorders that can lead to memory loss. Physical activity also boosts growth factors and stimulates new neuronal connections.
- If you can handle it, go for about 16 hours without eating, and your brain will thank you. Why? Because while you fast, your brain cells become more resistant to damage from stress, and helps get rid of old or damaged cells, making way for new ones.
- Hop on the charcoal bandwagon. You’ve probably been hearing a lot about activated charcoal lately, and that’s because it’s a great way to detox. In fact, it’s been used for centuries for detoxification and hospitals still use it today as an antidote to many poisons. Charcoal soaks up the toxins in your digestive system before they can reach your brain, and other organs, to keep you at your best. You can find activated charcoal at most health food stores.
- Eat and drink brain-boosting foods and liquids. There are certain foods that can improve your memory, while others that can harm it. Here’s what to eat and not eat for good brain health:
- Eat: omega-3s, such as fish like salmon, tuna, halibut, trout, mackerel, sardines and herring. Other foods high in omega-3 are walnuts, ground flaxseed, flaxseed oil, winter squash, kidney and pinto beans, spinach, broccoli, pumpkin seeds and soybeans.
- Don’t eat: Too many calories and saturated fats. Diets high in saturated fats (found in red meat, whole milk, butter, cheese, cream and ice cream) can increase your risk of dementia and impair concentration and memory.
- Eat: Fruits and vegetables, which contain antioxidants, which protect brain cells from damage.
- Drink: Green tea and wine (in moderation), or grape juice. Green tea contains powerful antioxidants that protect against free radicals that can damage brain cells, and red wine, in moderation (1 glass a day for women; 2 for men), may improve memory and cognition. Grape juice and cranberry juice will also work.
- Stop me if you’ve heard this before – most adults need between 7.5 and 9 hours of sleep every night. And I know what you’re thinking, who has the time? Well, make the time. Your memory, creativity, problem-solving abilities and critical thinking skills are all compromised when you skip on sleep. So get to bed!
What are some of your favorite brain-boosting activities?