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Natural Ways to Improve Brain Health

Did you know that more than 46 million people worldwide have Alzheimer's Disease, and that every three seconds, someone in the world develops dementia?1

While we currently don’t know how to prevent or cure Alzheimer’s, today's research offers natural ways to maintain and possibly improve brain health. No matter how old you are, don’t neglect your brain health. It’s never too early or too late to start thinking about thinking. Let’s keep those brains optimized!

To honor the importance of your mind, we’re sharing our “ABCs of Brain Health” with simple lifestyle choices you can make to keep your brain healthy, plus, a few of our favorite alphabetical tips!

Brain health tip letter A - Adding a brain game or challenge to your daily routine is a great way to promote good brain health.

A. Add Brain Games to Your Daily Routine

Adding a brain game or challenge to your daily routine is a great way to promote good brain health. Brain games allow for mental stimulation, and according to a neuroscience study published in Psychological Medicine, adults who engage in regular mental stimulation are 46% less likely to develop dementia than those who aren’t mentally active.2

To give your brain a good workout, try incorporating a fun 30-minute brain game into your daily routine. For example, check out the New York Times’ daily crossword puzzle or the brain game challenges on Luminosity.com. They’re a great way to exercise your brain.

Specific brain games aren’t your only option, though, to work-out your brain. Consider learning something new, like a language or skill. Have you always wanted to learn to speak a foreign language that is intriguing, to paint, write poetry, do carpentry, or become a master chef? Well, improving brain health is a good reason to take up a new talent.

Brain health tip letter B - It turns out that a good night’s sleep actually helps tired brain cells rest and recover.

B. Get Plenty of Beauty Sleep for the Brain

We all know that a good night’s sleep can work wonders, but did you know that there’s a science to getting your beauty rest? It turns out that a good night’s sleep actually helps tired brain cells rest and recover.

A recent Harvard Medical School study reported, “People who are persistently sleep deprived are more likely to have high blood pressure, diabetes, and narrowed blood vessels. Each of these can decrease blood flow inside the brain. Brain cells need a lot of oxygen and sugar, so blood flow problems could affect their ability to work properly.”4

But according to the Harvard researchers, there is no magic number of hours of sleep that an individual should get, so the right amount of sleep will vary from person to person.4 To discover the amount of sleep that’s right for you, consider using a smartphone app that tracks your sleep cycle. It's a high-tech and easy way to ensure you get your beauty rest.

Not only does sleep help brain cells to recover, research has suggested that sleep also helps restore the brain by flushing out toxins that build up during waking hours.11 Toxins are never a good thing for our body or brain, so get that beauty sleep and wake up feeling refreshed.

Brain health tip letter C - Taking natural-ingredient supplements has been shown to support brain health.

C. Consider These Natural Brain Health Supplements

Along with exercise and sleep, taking natural-ingredient supplements has been shown to support brain health. Here are 5 of our favorites: Bacopa, Ginkgo Biloba, Huperzine A, Phosphatidyl Serine, and Vinpocetine.

  1. Bacopa is a plant found in tropical and subtropical environments that have been traditionally used to calm the nervous system and to enhance mental function.5 Some research shows that taking specific Bacopa extracts improves some measure of memory in otherwise healthy older adults and protects brain cells from chemicals involved in Alzheimer’s disease.7

  2. Ginkgo Biloba is one of the oldest living tree species and has a long history of use in supporting circulation and memory. As an antioxidant, it improves blood flow to the brain and is being studied as an ingredient that may help to prevent the advance of symptoms linked to Alzheimer’s.6

  3. Huperzine A is an extract found in a species of moss that is native to India.We have a chemical in our brain called acetylcholine (a learning neurotransmitter) that our nerves use to communicate in the brain and throughout our body. Huperzine A causes an increase in acetylcholine, thus leading to healthy brain functions, memory, and concentration.8

  4. Phosphatidyl Serine is a phospholipid and a component of cell membranes that is produced naturally by the body (and is also found in fish), and it plays a key role in maintaining cellular function, especially in the brain. It seems to improve attention, language skills, and memory, as seen in aging people with declining thinking skills.9

  5. Vinpocetine is a synthetic derivative of an alkaloid (an organic compound) found in the periwinkle plant. It has been reported to enhance cerebral blood-flow, has neuroprotective effects, and reduce neural inflammation. Vinpocetine appears to have some efficacy against mental decline, but research is still underway to support the possibility that Vinpocetine promotes memory.10

Brain health tip letter D - Simplest diet ever, increase your oxygen levels through exercise which boosts your brain's ability to concentrate and retain information.

D. A Brain Health Diet Worth Breathing For

Did you know that your brain uses about 20% of the oxygen you take in every day?12 To boost your brain’s ability to concentrate and retain information, all you need to do is increase your oxygen levels - simplest diet ever! How do you do that? Candidly - get your body moving through physical activity. When you activate the brain diet, you increase your oxygen levels, which really gives your brain a boost in its power.

Not only does a brain exercise diet increase your oxygen levels, but according to research, high aerobic activity has the ability to stimulate the cell growth in your brain.13 So, consider adding in a 30-minute brisk walk or jog, stir in a fun aerobics class, or peddle-it-up through your neighborhood on a bike. Find the type of exercise that’s the most enjoyable to you and power up that body and brain.

Brain health tip letter E - Get you body in shape, and you get your brain in shape!

E. 1, 2, 3, 4 - Brain Exercises

Along with an oxygen-rich diet getting your body in shape, gets your brain in shape also. The brain has the ability to be strengthened and developed, but to do so, you have to stimulate and use it. Here are 4 exercises to build up your brain:

  1. Get involved in groups or social functions where you can participate in stimulating and challenging conversations. This not only strengthens your brain, but it strengthens friendships and creates new ones.

  2. Take a class in something that really interests you but you know little about. Challenging your brain to learn something new will definitely promote brain health.

  3. Play games. There are countless games, like chess, both physical and electronic, that can increase your mental capabilities by making you focus, concentrate, and think.

  4. Slow down your mind. Yes, this might sound weird, but you can exercise your brain by slowing down your mind. Consider meditating or doing yoga. Prominent benefits of meditation include improving and enhancing attention and concentration, and it can help to keep away normal cognitive decline that happens as we age.14

Brain health tip letter F - Eat to boost your brain health by adding some yummy fruits, veggies, good fats, and proteins to your diet.

F. Good Brain Health Foods - Yum! Yum!

An easy and enjoyable way to boost your brain health is to eat brain healthy foods. All you need to do is incorporate some yummy fruits, veggies, good fats, and proteins in your diet.

Consider these delicious foods that can be used in a variety of ways:

  • Dark green leafy vegetables - These vegetables contain folate, and it’s thought that folate helps to reduce the death of nerve cells in the brain.15 Add some spinach or kale into a morning smoothie or have a green-filled salad for lunch. The more green you see, the better!

  • Blueberries - Not only are blueberries very high in antioxidants, they also contain Gallic acid, which is effective in inhibiting neuronal death.16 Who knew these little berries could have such a strong punch? Add a cupful to your morning oatmeal or grab some for an afternoon snack.

  • Nuts and seeds - Filled with vitamin E, nuts and seeds are a great choice to promote brain health because the vitamin E has been shown to correspond with less cognitive decline as we get older.17 So, throw some nuts or seeds, like almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, or flax seeds, onto your salad or into your smoothies. Or, just grab a handful for a quick snack.

  • Salmon - It’s tasty, full of protein, and promotes brain health. Salmon has omega-3 fatty acids that are vital for the maintenance of normal brain function because they preserve the cell membrane in brain cells, and they have been thought to improve overall brain function for mild cognitive impairment or decline.18 A nice piece of grilled salmon can make both your taste buds and your brain very happy.

Yes, our brains are complex, but the good news is that maintaining our brain health is easy as ABC. Add a dash of exercise to your body and mind; Beauty sleep is a must; and Consider a healthy diet supported by natural ingredients and supplements. This is definitely a great recipe for good brain health at any age!

Do you have healthy lifestyle practices that you’d swear by to promote good brain health? Connect with us on Facebook to share; we'd love to hear from you.

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2. Valenzuela, M., & Sachdev, P. (2006). Brain reserve and dementia: A systematic review. Psychological Medicine, 36, 441-454
3. Godman, H. Regular exercise changes the brain to improve memory, thinking skills. (April 2014) http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/regular-exercise-changes-brain-improve-memory-thinking-skills-201404097110
4. LeWine, H. Too little sleep, and too much, affect memory. (May 2014). http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/little-sleep-much-affect-memory-201405027136