Healthy Habits for a Healthy Brain

Max Cook
May 08, 2023
Healthy brain food to boost brainpower nutrition concept as a group of nutritious nuts fish vegetables and berries rich in omega-3 fatty acids for mind health as a composite image.
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Do you ever struggle with the internal conflict of wanting to order another pizza and lay on the couch all day just like you did last week? If the answer is yes, then here are some useful tips to try that may help you overcome that conflict and, as a bonus, could have a major impact on lowering your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative disease that currently affects over 6.5 million Americans and 47 million people worldwide. The symptoms of AD vary by the stage of disease, but generally consist of memory loss, poor judgment, difficulty with language and confusion with time and location.

These symptoms often leave the patient unable to take care of themselves and can sometimes result in family members caring for people with AD – this caregiving is estimated to be valued at $340 billion in 2022. There is also the emotional burden that family members endure as they watch a loved one with AD suffer for years before eventually being taken by the disease. 

"While there is currently no cure for AD, researchers have shown that healthy lifestyle habits can help to slow the progression and reduce the severity of the disease."

-- Max Cook

Although AD is more common in older individuals, biological changes that can lead to AD develop decades before any symptoms show. During the progression of AD, there is a stage known as mild cognitive impairment that may present as losing your train of thought. At this stage, cognition can be restored or maintained at this level without progressing. Unfortunately, once the disease surpasses this stage, it becomes irreversible and the symptoms become more severe. While there is currently no cure for AD, researchers have shown that healthy lifestyle habits can help to slow the progression and reduce the severity of the disease. Here are a few examples of lifestyle choices you can make today to help to lower your risk of developing AD.

Healthy diet
A healthy diet is a good first line of defense when considering lifestyle choices to combat the onset of AD. Developing healthy eating habits is crucial for maintaining your overall health and reducing your risk of many diseases, including AD. Studies have shown that a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and omega-3 fatty acids (such as those found in fish like salmon) is able to reduce cognitive decline. Alternatively, if these foods are incompatible with or are difficult to include in your diet, taking supplements that include key vitamins, like Vitamin B and omega-3 fatty acids, can often be a good substitute. Additionally, try to avoid consuming high amounts of sugar and processed food. High sugar intake will lead to high blood glucose levels in the brain, which can interfere with neuron connectivity and communication.

As we age, it is important to remain active and exercise regularly. Exercise plays a key role in allowing blood to flow to the brain and promoting the growth of new brain cells. Approximately 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day, five days a week, has been shown to reduce the risk of AD and improve overall brain function.

Mental stimulation
Exercising our brains is just as important as exercising our bodies! Any activity that engages our brains to do work, such as reading or completing puzzles, will keep our brain cells active and healthy. Another way we can stimulate our brains is through regular socialization – conversations with other people can help to keep our brains active and healthy. Failure to keep our brain cells active can sometimes cause them to die, which can contribute to degeneration of our brain resulting in cognitive decline.

Although it can sometimes be difficult to achieve, getting high-quality sleep every night is essential for our overall health, especially our brain health. Sleep helps to flush any toxins in our brain that can contribute to the onset of AD out of our system. If we do not get sufficient sleep, AD-associated proteins, like beta-amyloid, can build up in our brains. When these abnormal proteins accumulate, they begin to block the communication network between neurons. Once our neurons stop communicating with each other and functioning properly, they will eventually die. As these networks of neurons wither, our memory will worsen. Studies have also shown that lack of enough high-quality sleep is linked to an increased risk of cognitive decline. Similar studies suggest that sleeping 7-8 hours a night can help reduce the risk of AD onset and cognitive decline. Establishing a regular sleep schedule and avoiding excessive consumption of caffeine and alcohol are easy ways to ensure we get quality sleep.

Stress reduction
Excessive stress can have negative effects on our bodies, especially on our brains. During chronic stress, there is a lot of inflammation throughout our bodies and brains. Inflammation in our brain leads to a buildup of pro-apoptotic compounds – signals that lead to neuron death and cognitive decline. If you are experiencing high levels of stress, it's important to develop stress reduction techniques. Exercises that have proven to reduce stress and improve brain health are deep breathing, meditation and yoga.

In conclusion, healthy lifestyle decisions can be a major factor in preventing the onset of AD. It has been shown that a healthy diet, exercise, mental stimulation, sleep and stress reduction can improve brain health. Although there is no cure for AD, developing these lifestyle habits can help maintain overall health and reduce the risk of diseases.

So, the next time you are considering eating unhealthily or being lazy, try to follow these simple tips. Your brain will thank you for it.