1) The core elements of a diet to support brain function are:
• Low in sugar and moderate in starchy carbohydrates. This prevents the development of insulin resistance, which can have several detrimental effects on cognitive function.
• Plenty of vegetables as they contain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant nutrients. The brain is very susceptible to oxidative stress by ‘free radicals’ and antioxidants provide protection.
2) Improve your gut health
There is an intrinsic link between gut health and brain health. Poor gut health increases inflammation and this is one of the features of many chronic health conditions including cognitive decline.
To improve gut health, remove specific foods from your diet that may trigger gut symptoms, add in nutrients and fiber to support gut health and provide the gut with good bacteria. Foods good for gut health include dark green leafy vegetables, apples, fiber, banana etc.
3) Reduce stress
Persistently elevated levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) can kill brain cells and negatively affect brain function. Find stress-reducing activities that work for you. These could include yoga, meditation, mindfulness, massage, breathing techniques, gardening, reading, listening to music, or keeping a happiness and gratitude journal.
4) Improve your sleep
Sleep is vital for optimal brain health as during sleep our brain cells detoxify and cleanse. Find sleep strategies that work for you. For example, keep a regular sleep cycle, create a relaxing bedtime routine, eat well, get regular exercise, and avoid screens and fluorescent lighting before bedtime. It is important to give yourself an 8-hour sleep opportunity each night.
5) Do Exercise
Aerobic exercise protects the brain from damage and helps to produce new cells within the part of the brain responsible for memory and emotions – which commonly becomes damaged due to age and disease. Exercise increases blood flow and delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the brain, which are essential for brain function including concentration and mental focus.
6) Always train your brain
Challenging and stretching of the brain allows new connections to be created and maintained. The bigger the range of activities you use to challenge your brain, the more your brain becomes strong. For example, you can read, write, do a crossword or puzzle, play games, use your non-dominant hand for everyday activities like brushing your teeth, socialize with friends, go to the theatre or take up a new hobby.