With dementia diagnosis rates rising in the Western world, it is important to look at our lifestyle and diet as a factor. The warning signs that your brain is struggling may begin up to three decades before any diagnosis of dementia. As a general guideline, what is good for the body is also good for the brain. If you learn how to really care for your brain and feed it the optimal diet and lifestyle, you can begin to quickly experience some positive improvements.
Diet: Using food as medicine is easy and has an immediate response for brain health. As Dr. Mark Hyman, M.D., says, “The key to healing the brain starts in the kitchen.” Eat real food, which means whole, organic, fresh, local and unprocessed food. A healthy gut means a healthy brain! Balance protein, good fats and carbohydrates.
Eat all colors of the rainbow in the foods you choose. Colorful vegetables and fruit provide the body and brain with powerful antioxidants, which reduce inflammation and give the brain an energy boost. Choose foods that are deep rich in color like blueberries, red peppers and dark, leafy greens. Add cold water fish, and nuts and seeds, which contain omega-3 fatty acids, into your diet. Plan your meals around your vegetables and then add fruit, protein, dairy and/or grains.
If you can only do one thing, eat more vegetables, particularly leafy green ones.
Stress management: Chronic stress reduces and can inhibit the brain’s ability to function properly. Meditation, yoga and other calming activities are effective in countering stress. Regular sleep patterns are important in brain function and stress reduction. At least seven to nine hours a night is required for a healthy brain. Stay connected with friends and family. Having community and social engagements helps decrease stress and keeps you connected.
If you can only do one thing, set aside five to 10 minutes a day to just breathe deeply and recharge.
Physical exercise: Movement is key to living a full life. When our bodies are sedentary, our brain is not getting all the stimulation it needs. Physical exercise has been shown to enhance brain physiology. Cardiovascular activity, or anything that gets your heart beating faster, improves learning through increased blood supply, circulation and growth hormone levels in the body.
If you can only do one thing, do something cardiovascular; this includes walking, running, skiing, swimming, biking, hiking, tennis, basketball, pickle ball and other similar sports/activities.
The simple act of walking your dog is good for both of you, decreases stress and moves your body.
Mental Stimulation: Challenging your brain helps strengthens the synapses, or connections, between neurons, thus improving neuron survival and cognitive functioning. Good mental exercise requires novelty, variety and increasing levels of challenge. If you continue to do the same things over and over, you are not developing new neural pathways. Learn a new language or to play an instrument. Do a variety of things, including things you are not good at, for novelty. Be curious! Get to know your local library and community college. Look for local organizations that offer classes and workshops, or join a book club. Work puzzles like crosswords and Sudoku, or play games like chess and bridge.
These are just a few options for developing a healthy brain. It is important to note that as you age, you do not automatically have to lose brain function and develop dementia.
Now, what can you do to start your healthy-brain lifestyle tomorrow? QCBN
By Dr. Amy Tarquinio
Dr. Amy Tarquinio is a chiropractor in Prescott. She has more than 25 years of manual therapy experience and incorporates her knowledge into creating a unique healing session specifically for you. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please contact her office, Aligned For Life, at 928-443-7717. dramyt.com
Contact the office for references for this article.