People are becoming more aware that lifestyle factors like good nutrition, exercise and sleep play a major role in preventing memory loss. Research clearly shows that these factors can positively impact how long we keep our minds and bodies in good working order. However, there’s much more to the story.
The brain’s neuroplasticity means we have an ability to grow new neurons throughout our lives. We can also lose them, which is why it’s important to know what other steps can prevent memory loss. Medical practitioners most successful in treating memory loss acknowledge there are many causes of dementia. Some causes we can act on right away, and others require the help of a doctor trained in integrative or functional medicine to order testing and treatment for issues such as underlying inflammation, heavy metals, toxins, and mold.
Integrative doctors can set us on the right track with courses of treatment but may not have time to work with patients on a step-by-step action plan. That is where certified Health Coaches come in. Coaches partner with patients to implement recommended lifestyle changes, helping them to reach their health and life goals.
Of course, many of our habits and preferences have developed over the course of a lifetime, and making changes also takes time. But for the health of our brains, we need to start TODAY. Making just one change each week, over the course of a year, will improve our health and well-being significantly.
To get started, here are immediate and critical steps to keep our minds sharp and our entire bodies functioning well.
Make BetterFood Choices: What we eat each day profoundly affects our brain. The research is overwhelming that processed foods containing added sugars, poor quality oils, and artificial flavors and colors are causing major health problems. Instead, choose whole, plant-based foods like fruits and vegetables; small amounts of pasture-raised or organic protein; and fewer refined carbohydrates such as cookies, bagels, pasta, and desserts. Other brain-healthy foods include avocados, SMASH fish (wild salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring) and omega-rich nuts and seeds (walnuts, flax and chia seeds). And yes, even a small amount of dark chocolate – at least 70% cocoa.
Give Digestion A Rest: Fasting for at least 12 hours between dinner and breakfast optimizes detoxification, keeps blood sugar in check, and helps decrease inflammation.
Get Quality Sleep: Experts recommend at least 7 hours of quality sleep each night for optimal brain health. During deep sleep, the brain detoxifies the harmful plaques and toxins that build up during the day. Snoring, repeated awakening, or feeling tired all the time may indicate a need to check for sleep apnea, which can be tested at home.
Exercise: Regular movement is truly a life-changer, keeping the body and brain in good working order. In addition to helping manage weight and improve balance, exercise reduces stress, improves sleep, and even increases the size of the hippocampus, a region of the brain that’s critical to memory formation. Both aerobic exercise and strength training are important, so aim for 30 minutes of continuous activity like walking 5 days a week, and strength training twice a week.
Stay Hydrated: Since 73% of our brain weight is water, drink more water than any other beverage to keep all the body’s systems functioning well. A good rule of thumb is to drink half our weight in ounces daily.
Manage Stress: Prolonged, unremitting stress damages our bodies and our brains. Take time to relax daily, engaging in activities that promote complete relaxation such as meditation, deep breathing, spending time in nature, reading or listening to music.
Stimulate the brain: Learning something new creates neuronal pathways and keeps the brain challenged. Good choices include dancing, a foreign language, a new sport, or computer games on brainhq.com.
Keep socializing: As we age, loss of friends or jobs can be challenging. Take advantage of opportunities to stay connected through activities and hobbies, phone calls and visits with family and friends, and volunteer work in the community.
These steps may seem challenging, but just one change each week puts us on the path to better brain health.
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