The brain is always changing and growing new connections in response to experiences, daily practices and new information. But is it possible to protect the brain’s ability to remember, learn and concentrate?
According to Sarah Tomaszewski Farias, professor of neurology at UC Davis Health, the things you do to help keep your body and heart healthy may be good for brain health, too. By taking steps today, Farias believes you can reduce some risks to maintain a clear, active mind across the lifespan.
Here are a few of her recommendations:
Exercise. We have known for a long time that physical exercise is important for heart health. There is growing evidence that physical activity also has specific effects on brain health, in part by promoting the survival of neurons and other supportive cells in the brain. Recommendations are for 150 minutes of moderately vigorous exercise a week. It doesn’t require running a marathon. Many studies show brisk walking (to the point where holding a steady conversation is a bit of a challenge) can impact brain health.
Eat right. Research also supports the importance of healthy eating in the fight against cognitive decline. Following a Mediterranean type diet that's high in vegetables (especially the leafy green kind), good fats such as those found in nuts, and berries may be particularly beneficial.
Do something mentally challenging. The old phrase “use it or lose it” holds true for the brain. Just like it is important to exercise your body, it’s also important to exercise your mind. Types of activities that may be particularly beneficial include learning new things or participating in activities that require reasoning and problem solving.
Socialize. There are many benefits to regularly seeing friends and family, both for our mental and physical health. As an added bonus, interacting with others and discussing interesting topics of today also provide another way to stimulate your mind!
Gratitude. The science of happiness and positive psychology has taught us that finding something to be grateful for each day can improve emotional well-being. This may, in turn, decrease the negative impact that stress can have on the brain.
UC Davis Health is improving lives and transforming health care by providing excellent patient care, conducting groundbreaking research, fostering innovative, interprofessional education, and creating dynamic, productive partnerships with the community. For more information, visit health.ucdavis.edu.