If you’ve ever poured orange juice into your coffee or forget where you’ve put your keys, you may start to worry that you are experiencing the first signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Luckily, mild symptoms of memory loss don’t have to mean that you are destined to have dementia or Alzheimer’s. In fact, there are many simple things you can do to keep your brain in top shape as you age.
Here are a few easy things you can do to improve your brain health:
- Get moving
Did you know that working out can be as good for you brain as it for your heart? According to an article by the Harvard Medical School, exercise helps reduce inflammation, stimulates the growth of new blood vessels in the brain and helps new brain cells survive. And in a study by the University of British Columbia, researchers found that walking briskly for an hour twice a week was enough to boost the area of the brain involved in verbal memory.
Daniel Levi, LCPC, a therapist at the Center for Holistic Medicine, recommends doing about 20 to 30 minutes of cardio a day for optimal brain health. However, Levi says it’s important not to push yourself too much. In fact, studies have shown that too much intense exercise can increase cortisol levels, which can cause you to gain weight and increase stress.
- Reduce Stress
We’ve all heard that stress can lead to a variety of health challenges, from high blood pressure to diabetes, blood pressure and more. Now, scientists also believe that chronic stress can lead to Alzheimer’s. Part of the reason could lie in the fact that stress sends our immune system into overdrive, causing inflammation.
One of the best ways to de-stress and maintain balance in your life is to practice meditation. In fact, a recent study showed that adults age 55 to 90 who meditated and practiced yoga two hours a week were less likely to have their brain atrophy than those who didn’t.
“Meditation and mindfulness studies show that they cause changes to the brain,” Levi says. Meditation increases serotonin levels, which makes you feel calmer, and increases dopamine levels, which improves your focus and concentration.
“Brain chemistry is a real thing, and serotonin and dopamine deficiencies are important to identify and improve,” he says.
- Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Because inflammation has been linked to Alzheimer’s, depression and other issues in the brain, it’s important to keep inflammation at bay with an anti-inflammatory diet. Katie Bogaard, a naturopathic practitioner at the Center for Holistic Medicine, recommends avoiding sugar, white flour, processed foods and trans fats and instead eating a diet rich in whole grains, good fats, spices, and fish.
In addition, make sure you get lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, which are high in antioxidants. “Eating the rainbow – getting a wide variety of fruits and vegetables – is a good way of making sure you’re getting a lot of antioxidants,” Bogaard says.
- Eat a Ketogenic Diet
If you are already eating an anti-inflammatory diet, Bogaard says you can improve your brain health even more by eating a ketogenic diet, which suggests that you get about 80 percent of your calories from good fats, along with a moderate amount of protein and low amounts of carbohydrates and sugars.
With a ketogenic diet, which has so few carbohydrates, your body starts using ketones for fuel instead of glucose, sending your body into a state of ketosis. Studies have found that this can be very helpful for people with brain issues such as epilepsy and Alzheimer’s.
- Eat Good Fats
“Your brain is basically made out of fats and cholesterols,” Bogaard says. “Good fats are really helpful in feeding and nurturing the brain.” Bogaard recommends eating fats such as coconut oil, fish oil, and avocados, as well as other sources of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids.
Interested in learning more about how to improve brain health? Come to our free workshop at The Springs of Vernon Hills Alzheimer’s Care Center on Thursday, Oct. 19 at 5:30 p.m. Love to see you there!