The brain is essential for everything we do on a daily basis. However, as we grow older, it becomes susceptible to mental decline and other changes in mental function (1). It might become easier to forget things, misplace objects, or retain new information. But like every other muscle in the body, the brain benefits from upkeep. Here are some ways to improve our brain fitness, to keep our brains healthy and our cognitive abilities sharp.
Here are some brain fitness tips to keep your mind healthy:
Exercise has numerous benefits for the brain, including boosting brain fitness. Walking for thirty to sixty minutes, three to five times a week may lead to measurable improvements in the brain (2). Exercise from cardio to weight-bearing, can help one regulate their stress and emotions too whilst potentially reversing the process of brain shrinking, which naturally occurs as you age. This is attributed to the release of endorphins, also known as the feel-good neurotransmitters. Regular exercise can help with memory, motor skills, and executive function even at an older age (2).
Exercise has also been found to facilitate the faculty of the brain that helps with math, also known as motor-enriched learning. A study found that kids who exercised while taking math lessons had better math scores (2). Another study found that older adults with mild cognitive impairment who exercised several times a week were found to have improved cognitive function, as well as muscle tone (2).
The brain also gets a workout when you are with other people. One study found that old people who did not experience as much social interaction during the duration of the experiment underwent twice as much memory loss compared to those who did (3). Human interaction is extremely beneficial in keeping your brain fitness up. It is important to remain connected with friends and family. Keeping these networks alive can also help you avoid feelings of loneliness and isolation (15). Strong ties with others have also been connected to lower risks of old age mental diseases, alongside lower blood pressure and longer lifespan (3).
The brain needs constant engagement and stimulation. One study found that subjects who had retired saw a decline in their short-term ability to remember words (3). It may help to find new challenges, learning something new every day, and to step outside of our comfort zone (3).
Part of giving your brain a workout is exercising your cognitive abilities (15). You can do this in the form of doing jigsaw puzzles, math problems like Sudoku, reading, playing cards, or doing crosswords. On the other hand, avoid activities that don’t stimulate the brain, or encourage boredom. This includes activities such as watching too much television, a more passive activity that does very little to stimulate the brain (15).
A healthy diet incorporating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, omega-3, and high-quality proteins can help protect against cognitive impairment (1). A good diet can also help improve blood pressure and blood sugar, which helps lower the risk of cognitive decline1. A well-balanced diet that contains low levels of cholesterol is also beneficial for cognitive function, as high cholesterol has been associated with a higher risk of cognitive problems down the line (1).
Whilst it is preferred to get all the nutrients you need from your diet, this may not be achievable for some. In this case, supplements paired alongside your diet can help address nutritional shortfalls:
Zinc supports the brain by playing an important role in supporting the synapses and nucleic acid metabolism in the brain (4). Lower levels of zinc in children have been found to affect learning ability (4).
Iron is known to support brain function and assist in the synthesis of neurotransmitters.
*Iron should only be taken if prescribed by your doctor.
Astaxanthin supports brain health by acting as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant agent.
Ashwagandha is a herb that helps reduce symptoms of mild anxiety, promotes quality sleep and reduces time to fall asleep (7).
Magnesium maintains cognitive function by helping with nervous system health and function (8).
B complex is important for brain development and brain function, as well as the synthesis of nerve cells (9).
This vitamin supports brain function and brain health, as well as maintains cognitive and mental functions.
Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant in support of brain health. It also plays a pivotal role in assisting in the synthesis of neurotransmitters, and supporting brain function.
Vitamin B12 supports brain health by playing a role in the synthesis of neurotransmitters. B12 deficiency may also result in neurological problems (12).
Ginkgo & Brahmi support cognitive function, memory, and information processing (13).
Omega-3 fatty acid is a type of DHA that is important for brain development, function, and health. It has been found that fish oil, which contains omega-3, has a direct effect on mood, behavior, and brain function (14).
These minerals and vitamins can help you in maintaining your brain health and are also beneficial to your other organs when paired alongside a healthy and well-rounded diet.
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Find out more about other areas that the above supplements can help you with:
*Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional. Vitamin and/or mineral supplements should not replace a balanced diet.