We go on and on (or I do!!!) about anti-aging skin care, but what about anti-aging brain care? With the baby boomer population on the rise, a lot more attention is now being paid to brain health. Degenerative diseases aside, how on earth do we keep our brain as sharp as it once was? Can our already dwindling brain cells be regenerated? Can those dreaded diseases be prevented? Can I improve my memory and start to actually remember people’s names five minutes after they’ve told me? There’s apparently a resounding YES to all of the above. So I spent a couple of weeks digging deep, and going with the latest evidence-based scientific research, here how to seriously age-proof your brain.
On with the sneakers! You literally have to keep your cardio going no matter what! Numerous studies (too many to show here) have concluded that cardio exercise can and will improve brain cognition, memory and overall function significantly. My dad is 93, does cardio everyday of his life, and is still as sharp as a tack. Conversely, a sedentary lifestyle is one of the main factors that contributes to brain function decline. Move your body, move those brain cells!
Tip: You don’t need to do hours of cardio. It’s been found that small 10-minute bursts are best. Think tackling a huge flight of stairs twice, doing ten minutes of kettle bell swings, or going for hike with a sharp ten-minute incline. Obviously check with your doctor before embarking on a new cardio regime, especially if you have high blood pressure.
Omega three is key! As we age, our ability to make long-chain omega 3’s (DHA) from the short-chain omegas found in our food (flax, chia, etc.) declines. And lower DHA levels are associated with a smaller brain size – Yikes! Did you know that our brain shrinks as we age? By the time we reach our seventies, it apparently loses 26% of its volume, putting it in the size bracket of a small child – STOP!!!!!! Okay, just writing this down makes me want to down an entire bottle of algae-derived Omega 3 supplements now. And, algae-derived is what you want to go for because you will lessen your exposure to toxic pollutants. But, also eat tons of flax seed too. I toss 4 tbsp of whole flax seeds into a full Vitamix (about 4 smoothie’s worth). Plus, I eat tons of nuts, seeds, and avocados – All healthy fats for your brain.
Tip: For Omega 3 supplements, make sure you take 250 mg’s a day
Train Your Brain! Obvious I know, but this cannot be overstated. You need to challenge your brain everyday – Ideally to do something that’s pretty difficult to get your head around. This is one of the reasons I took on a science degree – My goodness, all the chemistry and physics is kicking my brain’s butt! Seriously, this is mind-bending stuff for me, and each time I sit down and look at another chemical equation my mind tells me that I just cannot figure it out, however, I force my brain to stop being lazy, get off it’s little comfy couch, and get working. Of course, you can do crosswords, learn to play bridge, or download one of the brain-training apps, such as Luminosity.
Change it up! This one is huge because have you noticed how the elderly people you love can get “stuck in their ways?” This is literally because the same old neural pathways are being followed – The ones that have been followed for decades! Start changing up what you do, how you do it, and how you think about things. For example, take a different route to work, change around where you keep some things in your kitchen (like switch up a few drawers), watch a different news channel, or listen to podcasts instead of the radio. You can make dozens of little changes every single day. The key is that at the end of the activity, you acknowledge that you really had to think about it to make it work.
Hydrate more than you think. I recommend drinking half your body weight in ounces of filtered water daily. If you even a tiny bit dehydrated, your thinking can become fuzzy, and your focus/concentration can go out of the window (literally!).
Tip: Make sure your water is filtered, because your tap water may be more contaminated that you realize.
Brain-boosting supplements! There isn’t really sufficient scientific evidence to have me run out and buy any of the brain or memory boosting supplements out there… With the huge exception of Cognium by Natrol, which is backed by 9 human clinical trials, all supporting how it can indeed boost memory and brain performance. Natrol recently sent me this product to try out. I was particularly interested in it because many people who I really love are only in their sixties, and already having issues with concentration and memory. It’s also very interesting to me that it can protect the brain from free-radical damage (AKA oxidation), which leads to brain degeneration. It’s so worth giving it a try because results can be felt after only 4-weeks. The other cool thing is that Natrol will apparently give you a full refund if you don’t ace the Mensa quiz after 4 weeks of taking Cognium! Only kidding, but they will give your money back if you’re not really happy with the progress you’re making. BTW – have you ever tried that quiz? I failed miserably. But I will say that I’m sailing through the finals of my science degree in a way that I really didn’t think I would… and it could be the Cognium! I’m only 3 weeks into taking the supplements, but so far, so good. And I’m having to do horrendous math problems and balance chemical equations (both subjects are my major WEAK link).
Tip: If you’re going to try a supplement such as Cognium, make sure you give it a fair shot by following dosage directions to the T. Maybe download a memory training app such as Peak, and see how much better you are after 4 weeks. Or do it the old fashioned way and open a poetry book, find a poem you don’t know, and see if you can memorize it. Then do the same after 4 weeks with a new poem.
Stress Less! Big yawn…I know, we hear it so much that it becomes background noise … That we should reduce stress to avoid practically every ill that might ever cross our path. But, it’s true, and especially where your brain health is concerned. Conversely, mindfulness meditation has been actually shown to have demonstrable effects on brain function and immunity. Laughing also really helps. A study by Loma Linda university show that laughter can decrease cortisol levels, and thus improve short-term memory. Maybe that’s why when I spend a day laughing with my besties, I am way more able to remember names.
Eat plants…and loads of them! Eating beautiful fresh fruits and veggies can only do your brain a lot of good. Don’t hold back. And, there are specific fruits and veggies to focus on, as you see in the graphic below.
Tip: Make sure your blueberries, cherries and cherry tomatoes are organic.
This post is a sponsored collaboration between myself and Natrol. All opinions expressed here are my own.