Many of you will be shocked to learn that cognitive decline starts as early as your mid-twenties! Hard to imagine that just as we start to enter into adulthood – and begin to get respect from both our elders and those younger than us – that we’re actually starting to get dumber!
Brain Function Declines With Age
As early as 25, our regional brain volume starts to irreversibly shrink. This is also the main reason why so many people begin to develop anxiety, depression, and even more serious mental issues like bipolar disease and schizophrenia as they progress into their 30’s. At this same time, other biological factors come into play such as myelin sheath strength, which impairs neurotransmitter activity and inhibits our happy “dopamine” and relaxing “serotonin” receptors.
Three Main Factors Contributing to the Brain’s Decline
There are 3 main factors that are involved with why our brain function starts to slow down. Namely, age, lack of use and poor lifestyle choices like eating too much junk, smoking, alcohol and drug use also play a role.
The good news is that while you can’t reverse or stop time, there are many ways you can help keep your brain in tip-top shape by giving it more of what it needs.
1. Eat Smarter to be Smarter
Eating the right foods and in the right amounts is key to maintaining a healthy brain. Nature has always known what’s best for us, and natural unprocessed foods are the key to keeping the entire body and brain healthy.
Stay away from foods high in trans fats and animal cholesterol. Eat plenty of natural foods high in healthy saturated and polyunsaturated omega-3 fats like avocados, nuts, fish, and eggs. Omega 3’s in addition to vitamin E and lutein are also recommended to keep your brain cells and neurotransmitters in optimal form.
Eat Smarter Tips:
• Eat plenty of fatty fishes rich in DHA omega 3 fats like salmon, trout, swordfish and fresh (uncanned) tuna.
• Take a tablespoon of olive oil every day, on food or by itself. Olive oil has proven effective at reducing cognitive decline due to it’s high levels of healthy fats.
• Eat grass fed, organic butter instead of margarine, since margarine contains heaps of unhealthy fats and preservatives.
• Consider removing gluten-containing foods from your diet. Gluten can cause several autoimmune diseases in the body, including the brain.
• Eat lots of lutein-rich foods like eggs, spinach, kale, and collard greens. Supplements are also available.
• Eat plenty of polyphenol-rich foods like bright colored veggies, berries, and leafy greens. Polyphenols are powerful antioxidants that fight the constant oxidative stress placed on the brain, a process which causes irreversible damage to neurotransmitters and brain cells.
• Don’t smoke or consume drugs. Limit or remove alcohol from your life.
2. Work Your Body to Make the Brain Smarter
Physical activity helps maintain good blood flow throughout the body. Optimal blood flow is needed to pump blood all the way up to your noggin to keep it nourished and healthy!
Exercise is also essential for maintaining a healthy bodyweight. It’s a long proven fact that people who eat less and aren’t overweight live longer.
Being overweight causes negative hormonal changes in the brain and body, increases bad cholesterol and lowers the good cholesterol in our blood, raises fat triglyceride levels, and often leads to poor blood sugar control. All of these issues lead to poorer brain function and faster brain aging.
Work Your Body to Help Your Brain Tips:
• Exercise for 30 minutes a day, every day, to relieve stress and maintain a healthy weight and blood flow in the body and brain.
• Try to stand up more if you work in a sedentary career – standing desks are a great way to stay vital and have proved to help improve concentration levels and overall physical health.
• Make sure you get a physical exam done by your doctor on a yearly basis, to spot problems like bad cholesterol levels, diabetes, and heart problems before they start to damage your brain function.
3. If You Don’t Use it You’ll Lose it!
It’s easy to take our brain development for granted when we’re in school. Kids, teens and college students are constantly forced to challenge their brains for at least 6 hours a day, give or take. When we move out into the big world though, where we choose to hang our hat has huge effect on maintaining a strong, focused brain.
One could surmise that a corporate CEO would be much more challenged than someone who chooses to work at a fast-food restaurant, but there’s more to it when it comes to our brain health. Regardless of what you do for a living and what you do for fun in your downtime, maintaining a brain that’s always in peak state comes down to how much it’s challenged on a day-to-day basis, much as you challenge your heart and lungs to stay strong by running and exercising, or challenge your muscles to grow when lifting weights.
Brain Workout Tips:
• Consider reading instead of watching TV (they don’t call it the boob tube for nothing). Reading works both the left (cognitive) and right (creative) sides of your brain. Television requires little brain activity at all.
• Stimulate your brain for 30 minutes every morning by playing a crossword or learning a new language. It’s often believed that multi-lingual people are smarter than those who aren’t, and its true – they became smarter by learning, they didn’t learn the language necessarily because they’re smarter than the rest of us!
• Learn a new word every day and commit it to memory by using it in social situations.
• Pick a skill of any kind, such as wood-working, knitting, surfing, sailing, auto mechanics, yoga – and commit 30 minutes or more to it a few days a week.
4. Find Love and Happiness
Happier brains are healthier brains. Social activity has been shown to promote brain cell recovery and growth. The act of engaging with friends, families, and lovers can improve your memory by up to fifty percent over those who’re anti-social or who tend to keep more to themselves.
Love and Happiness for a Smarter You Tips:
• Prioritize your time with friends and family – your brain depends on it!
• Spend your spare time volunteering in a social setting such as community events, children’s sport teams, elderly living facilities, or helping to care for people with special needs.
• Don’t retire if you enjoy being part of a team and socializing. People who retire early tend to die much faster anyway and brain function definitely declines much faster if all you’re doing is hitting the links and spending more time at the local sports bar or bingo hall!
• Join local clubs, check the classifieds for local groups that interest you – go to church if that’s your thing.
• Date more if you’re single – even if you’re sick of looking or think it’s a waste of time. At least you’re thinking, right?