There is a tendency to believe certain myths about aging, particularly when it comes to the health of our brain. For example, we might think that reduced cognition and memory are just part of aging, and there’s nothing we can do about it.
That’s not the reality.
We do have some level of control over how slowly or quickly our brain ages.
For example, obesity or a diet high in inflammatory foods can speed up how quickly your brain ages. Lifestyle choices can accelerate inflammation in the brain, leading to complications that may need to be treated by a neurosurgeon like Dr Timothy Steel.
So what can you do to keep your brain healthier and slow the process of aging?
Get Your Blood Pressure Under Control
Your brain requires a nourishing supply of blood to function properly. If you can get your blood pressure under control, you can improve the health and function of your brain.
When you have high blood pressure, it can cause narrow or blocked arteries that limit blood flow to the brain, leading to vascular dementia. High blood pressure can also lead to cognitive impairment.
Things you can do to lower blood pressure without medication include losing extra weight, particularly around your midsection, eating well, and keeping an eye on your sodium intake.
Eat a Healthy Diet
Your diet is an extremely important part of the health of your brain. For example, researchers found in 2018 that omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the blood relate to healthy aging of the brain.
Researchers found that middle-aged people with higher levels of lutein, which is a nutrient in vegetables, had neural responses more similar to younger people than people of the same age.
Fatty fish is excellent for brain health, including salmon and tuna. Fatty fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids, and around 60% of your brain is made up of fat. Half of that fat is comprised of omega-3 fatty acids. Your brain uses healthy fats to build nerve and brain cells, and these fats are needed for memory and learning.
Using turmeric can be something you incorporate into your diet for brain health, or it can be something you take as a supplement. Turmeric is a spice with an active ingredient called curcumin. Curcumin can cross the blood-brain barrier. That means it can enter your brain directly and provide benefits to the cells.
Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compound that may improve memory, including in people with Alzheimer’s. Curcumin can improve levels of dopamine and serotonin, which improve mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Curcumin also boosts something called a brain-derived neurotrophic factor. This is a growth hormone that helps brain cells grow.
One of the best things you can do to improve your brain’s function and slow the signs of aging is to get regular exercise. Being inactive is one of the single most significant dementia risk factors.
You don’t have to go crazy and exercise for hours every day to see benefits either.
When you exercise, it reduces inflammation in the brain, and it can help with the growth and function of neural cells.
Exercise also helps with stress management and immune function.
Aerobic exercise, in particular, tends to have cognitive benefits.
When you sleep well, it helps your brain and body rest, and that can then help you learn and remember new things.
Create a routine for sleep that works for you. For example, maybe you stretch before heading to bed or having a cup of soothing tea, like chamomile.
Connecting with people can help you maintain your sense of self-worth. You can feel like you’re part of something and engaged in a community of people. Having close relationships with people is necessary to have a healthy and happy life.
Being around other people and connecting socially can also reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
Finally, too much stress is incredibly harmful to your brain. Stress can kill brain cells and reduce the size of your brain. When you’re chronically stressed, it can shrink your prefrontal cortex in particular. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for learning and memory.
At the same time, stress that’s not well-managed can increase the size of the amygdala. That can make your brain more receptive to stress.
Along with chronic stress potentially impairing your brain function, it can also put you at risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.
Find ways to control your stress that work well for you, like yoga, meditation, or self-care.