ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

5 Ways to Maintain Brain Health

Updated on June 28, 2013

Based on various studies, here are five ways to keep our brains healthy:

  • exercise
  • consume omega-3
  • consume antioxidants
  • take B vitamins
  • reduce sugar

There are many other factors that contribute to brain health. But let's examine why these five factors are so important to keep the brain sharp.

1. Exercise

Exercise is number one on the list. And it can be as simple as walking. Studies showed that brisk walking of 30 or more minutes everyday resulted in 5 to 7 years of younger cognition -- as reported in article More Evidence that Exercise is Key to Brain Health by Health.com

Dr. Mark Hyman said in his talk at Google that exercise is actually one of the best thing you can do to prevent Alzheimer's.[3] According to John Medina's 12 brain rules, exercise is rule number one.

Fred Gage of the Salk Institute found that mice that had exercised the most on their running wheels experienced greater neuro-genesis than those mice who are sedentary. Neurogenesis is the birth of new neurons in the brain, especially in the hippocampus. This is assumed true to be for humans as well. The out-dated notion that we do not grow new brain cells is false. New brain cells are being formed even at old age (although very slowly).

Studies also shown that aerobic exercise was associated with greater cerebral blood volume, which is indicative of new neurons -- since new neurons means new blood vessels. Furthermore those who have been engaging in aerobic exercise where they got their hearts pumping did better cognitively on tests than those who were doing only stretching and toning.

A study of over 2000 elderly men in Hawaii showed that those who had walked more than 2 miles a day had a decreased risk of dementia than those who had walked less than a quarter of a mile per day.[2]

Professor of Neuropsychology Joel Kramer gave a lecture on brain aging and how to keep neurons healthy (see video on the right).

Exercise was one of the preventative measures as indicated by mice experiments. It is believe that exercise decrease inflammation. Inflammation of the brain have been known to play a role in dementia.

Health.com article reports of studies again showing benefits of physical exercise on cognition. It says ...

"The most active women, who were getting the equivalent of 30 minutes or more of brisk walking every day, experienced much slower cognitive decline than those who got little or no exercise." [5]

The difference in cognitive decline is quite significant too. Research says that it amounted to being 5 to 7 younger cognitively.[5]

Exercise boosts BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor), which the growth fertilizer for the brain. This helps with the formation of new brain cells in a process call neurogenesis. Exercise also increases neurotransmitters such as GABA, serotonin, and dopamine.

Exercise reduces inflammation. Chronic low-grade inflammation may be one of the causative factors in Alzheimer's.[4]

Another benefits of exercise is that it decrease stress and the cortisol hormone. Chronically high cortisol levels kills brain cells.

Although aerobic exercise is best for the brain. There is still something to be said for resistance training. Resistance training improves insulin sensitivity and blood glucose control. It helps prevents insulin resistance. Diabetes and insulin resistance is one of the risk factors for Alzheimer's.

2. Get enough omega-3 fatty acids

Page 66 of the book The Chemistry of Calm, it says ...

"one of the best things you can do for your brain is to eat more omega 3 fats."

It is essential that the brain gets enough omega-3 fatty acids on a daily basis. That is because the cell membranes are made out of omega-3 fatty acids along with cholesterol, phospholipids, and proteins.

Your brain is composed of 60% DHA fats. That is why omega-3's are the building blocks for your brain.

The three category of omega-3 fats are ..

  • alpha linolenic acid (ALA)
  • eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
  • and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)

Omega-3 fatty acids are the "good fats". Your bodies can not manufacture omega-3. You have to get them from foods. You can get them from seafood such as salmon, shrimp, sardines. You can get omega-3 fatty acids from avocados, and omega-3 enriched eggs.

You can also get omega-3 from flax seeds and walnuts -- but animal sources of omega-3 are better. Get wild fish rather than farmed fish whenever possible.

Omega-3 fats also helps decrease inflammation, which as mentioned is a risk factor for Alzheimer's. Most people are not able to get enough omega-3 from their foods, and many experts have recommended taking omega-3 supplements which includes fish oil and/or krill oil.

3. Consume Anti-Oxidants

Antioxidants helps reduce oxidative stress damage to cells caused by free radicals. Beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E are all anti-oxidants. Foods such as blueberries, strawberries, prunes, grapes, tomatoes, kale, broccoli, carrots, papayas, and many other fruits and vegetables are rich in anti-oxidants. Blueberries are a great healthy brain food -- think brain-berries.

Glutathione is the body's master antioxidant. It helps recycle other antioxidants as well as able to replenish itself. Glutathione also detoxifies mercury (which as mentioned is toxic to the brain). Glutathione does its magic because of its sulfur group in its molecule. The body can produce glutathione and you can boost glutathione by eating sulfur containing foods such as garlic, onion, kale, and other broccoli family foods. Asparagus, avocado, and grapefruit are also a good way to boost of glutathione levels.

Although taking anti-oxidants in the form of foods is the best, one may not be able to get the optimal amounts from the regular American diet and may want to use supplements such as alpha-lipoic acid, vitamin C, and astaxanthin.

4. Take Vitamin B

Vitamin B is a water soluble vitamin. Therefore it does not accumulate in the body and hence is safe to take and difficult to overdose. Vitamin B is critical for brain health.

Instead of taking just a particular vitamin B (such as B12), take a vitamin B complex which include the various forms of the B vitamins such as niacin (B3), biboflavin (B2), thiamine (B1), botin (B7), folate (B9), pantothenic acid (B5), and B6 and B12. They work synergistic together.

In a couple of Google Tech Talks, you can hear Dr. Mark Hyman and Steven Fowkes talk about these important brain nutrients.

If you just thumb through or do an electronic search though the book The Chemistry of Calm, you will find numerous references to vitamin B and how important it is to the brain. Vitamin B also helps keeps homocysteine in check.

Perform a similar search for "omega 3" and you get quite a few references to that as well. Clearly, the brain thrives on vitamin B and omega 3. The book also recommends a few other supplements that provide nutritional support for the brain. Among them is the all important vitamin D as well.

5. Avoid Sugar

Excessive sugar consumption can lead to high blood glucose levels and insulin resistance -- both of which have associated with increased risk of Alzheimer's disease. High blood glucose and insulin resistance are characteristics of metabolic disorder syndrome and diabetes. People with diabetes have an increased risk of dementia.

Therefore in order to maintain brain health, one must avoid sugar as much as possible. Do not put sugar in your coffee or tea. Do not consume high fructose corn syrup.

Because refined and highly processed carbohydrates such as bread and pastry turn into sugar readily and quickly right after eating, one should not over-eat these types of refined carbohydrates. They can raise blood sugar levels right after a meal. It is for this reason that it is good idea to have several small meals throughout the day rather than a few large ones.

Some carbohydrates raises our blood sugars faster than others. This is measured by the food's glycemic index. A low glycemic index will not raise our blood sugars as fast. This is the type of carbohydrate we want to eat instead of a high glycemic index carbohydrate. Foods with fiber tend to be low glycemic and is better, because fiber delays the release of the glucose from the food. That is why whole fruits and vegetables are fine and are the "good carbohydrates".

Whole fresh fruits are better than fruit juices because of the fact that fruits has fiber and juice does not. Starchy white foods such as rice, potatoes, and bread are high glycemic carbohydrates that we should limit consumption.

Proper Diet helps Maintain Brain Health

The tips above is further confirmed by the book The Happiness Diet, which writes on page 11...

"Eat more processed, high-sugar foods and BDNF levels go down. Eat foods with plenty of folate, vitamin B12, or omega-3 and your BDNF levels go up."

Avoid the sugar in the processed foods. Folate is vitamin B9; get it from leafy greens vegetables. Get the B12 from grass-fed beef and fish. Get your omega-3 from fish and seafood.

Other Ways to Brain Health

Dr. Mercola has video on right giving seven ways to increase brain health.

1. Of course, number one again is exercise.

2. Get some sun outside.

3. Get enough sleep. Not enough sleep increases insulin resistance. Sleep before midnight and for some people optimally before 9pm.

4. Avoid processed foods, GMO, and sugar.

5. Improve fat content. 60% of the brain is composed of fat. Lower omega-6 vegetable oil intake. Increase omega-3. Take fish oil or krill oil.

6. Keep brain active.

7. Implement creative visualization technique such as EFT (emotional freedom technique).

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)