Tips to keep the brain active

December 5, 2020 11:00 am
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This article provides some tips on how to keep the brain active throughout life. Since the brain is arguably the most important organ, one is advised to partake in physical activity and to stay fit and in shape, even as normal age-related changes are taking place. The first tip is to exercise, which has a substantial positive impact on the brain. Neurologist Dr. Dean Sherzai explains that “exercise can increase blood flow to the brain, reduce the stiffness of the blood vessels and prevent cholesterol plaque build-up in the vessels leading to the brain.” It can also increase the release of the Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). BDNF helps build connections between neurons, thereby enhancing brain function. Just 150 minutes of moderate to intensive aerobic activity per week is enough to acquire and maintain these benefits.

Photo by Shelley Pauls on Unsplash

The next tip is sleeping well. Despite only being 2% of the body weight, the brain consumes up to 25% of the body’s energy. The waste produced by this consumption is removed while the body is asleep, making it vital to maintain brain health. Sleeping also helps in consolidating and organizing information and memories from the previous day. It is little surprise that a lack of sleep predisposes individuals to Alzheimer’s disease.

Furthermore, increased blood pressure can damage the arteries and cause them to rupture, resulting in a loss of blood supply to brain cells and tissue. Increased blood sugar levels outside of the homeostatic range can also contribute to cognitive decline, via damage to the brain’s cellular structure. As additional tips, it is thus important to maintain healthy blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Additionally, eating well is vital for optimizing brain health. Research has shown that nutritional consumption of foods that are typically seen in a Mediterranean diet is correlated with enhanced cognitive performance and increased brain health.

Another tip is to ensure that you are keeping your brain active by learning something new. The best way to implement this is by learning a new skill that involves multiple brain regions. Additionally, interacting and engaging with people has numerous positive effects on the brain, so it’s also important to stay social and connected within one’s communities. This website lists some ways to stay connected during the pandemic.

Finally, you should avoid smoking as it is associated with an increased risk of blood vessel damage and thus decreased blood supply to neurons and other brain tissues. The inflammation and oxidative stress related to long-term smoking also plays a role in blood vessel damage. This loss of blood can lead to strokes or microvascular diseases which can be linked to vascular dementia. The final tip addresses alcohol consumption, which can physically damage the brain, increase the risk for dementia, and have disastrous effects on mental health. Significantly fewer than 14 standard units of alcohol would be ideal for brain health. It’s also strongly recommended to have at least three alcohol-free days a week.

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This post was written by Hibah Sehar