6 Ways to Build a Healthier Brain During and After MenopauseApr 26, 2023
Your brain is sometimes referred to as the “control center” of your body. Beyond helping you to think and remember clearly, your brain helps to regulate the rest of your body, like your breathing, temperature, hunger, and hormones.
It’s important to keep your brain as healthy as possible for as long as possible to reduce the risks of chronic, often incurable, diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Research increasingly suggests that changes in estrogen levels during aging may increase risk for Alzheimer disease, the most common type of dementia.
Your brain’s health is influenced by six fundamental pillars:
Exercise is incredibly beneficial for physical and mental fitness, to de-stress, improve sleep, as well as keep your heart, lungs, and muscles healthy. What’s more, being physically active is a fundamental pillar of brain health. There are several types of exercise and all are beneficial.
Aerobic exercise, also known as “cardio” or “endurance” exercise, helps to get your heart rate up and your muscles warm. This type of exercise benefits your brain because it helps to preserve existing brain cells and also promotes the growth of new ones.
Strength or resistance training is great for building strong bones, but it also helps your brain by enhancing your concentration and improving your decision-making skills.
We all experience stress. Stress is how the body and brain react to a threat or demand (or “stressor”). These reactions are often called “fight or flight.” They include increased heart rate and breathing and a heightened sense of focus. All of these physiological reactions are initiated by the brain when it detects the threat.
Once the threat is gone, the stress response relaxes and your body and brain can regain their normal balance. However, sometimes that stress lingers on for days, weeks, and months (or longer) and becomes long-term or “chronic” stress. It’s this chronic stress that can negatively impact your brain. Chronic stress can effectively shrink the part of your brain responsible for memory and learning and can increase the part of your brain that is receptive to stress.
While stress cannot be eliminated entirely, you can learn effective techniques to better manage it and preserve your brain health.
SLEEP AND RELAXATION
Getting your 7-9 hours of sleep each night helps your mood and ability to manage stress. Sleep also allows you to be better able to plan and run your busy life and ensure that you can have the energy to do what you need to do to maintain and improve your well-being (including the five other pillars of brain health).
One of the most important things you can do to get enough sleep is to foster a regular sleep schedule and create a relaxing bedtime routine.
Staying connected to a network of people you care about can help reduce stress, improve mood, and help to feel more supported in life. Your social network can include your spouse and/or partner, immediate and extended family members, friends, or others in your community.
MEDICATIONS AND SUPPLEMENTS
Depending on your personal health situation, you may be advised to take medications or supplements. These can be important to reducing your risks for serious conditions and slowing down the progression of diseases. Some of the medical conditions that are linked to deteriorating brain health include high blood pressure, diabetes, and excess weight. These can increase your risks of cognitive decline and developing dementia.
If your doctor is recommending medications or a certified/credentialed dietitian or nutrition professional is recommending supplements, be sure to take them as directed and go for routine monitoring or testing as required.
FOOD AND NUTRITION
There are several foods and nutrients that promote a healthy brain by slowing cognitive decline and reducing your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. University researchers developed the MIND diet to emphasize foods that are rich in antioxidants and critical brain nutrients such as vitamins and other plant-based phytochemicals.
Here are a few of the key foods and nutrients to boost your brain health.
- Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of essential fats that promote heart and brain health [fish, nuts and seeds, flax, chia, walnuts, and soy]
- More plants! Plants contain more than vitamins and minerals, they’re also a source of fiber and antioxidant phytochemicals. Eating more plants helps more than only your brain, it’s also associated with better heart health and weight maintenance. Some of the top plants for brain health are deeply-colored fruits and vegetables like berries, leafy greens, and broccoli. The MIND diet recommends vegetables every day, at least six servings of greens each week, and at least two servings of berries each week.
- Spices and dark chocolate contain antioxidants called flavonoids. These compounds can help improve blood flow to the brain and reduce inflammation. These can be found in high amounts in turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, and dark and unsweetened chocolate.
- Coffee and teas. Did you know that coffee can help to improve your memory and ward off dementia? Up to three cups of black coffee per day is recommended. When it comes to teas, black and green teas contain antioxidants for brain health.
- Moderate consumption of red wine
- Whole grains like oats and quinoa are rich in brain-healthy B-vitamins and fiber, making them an important part of the MIND diet. B-vitamins are essential so that the brain can create energy, repair DNA, maintain the proper structure of neurons (nerve/brain cells), and create essential neurochemicals for optimal function. B-vitamins also act as antioxidants to reduce the harmful effects of free radicals that can damage brain cells (or any cells).
- Vitamin D
- Limit red meat
There are many things you can do to boost your brain health. They include a number of healthy lifestyle habits.
Worried about your risks for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia? Want to know which foods, nutrients, and other lifestyle choices will help your brain stay healthy for years to come? Need a plan to help you embed these six pillars of brain health in your day-to-day life? Book an appointment with me today to see how my coaching programs can help you.
Stay connected with news and updates!
Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.
We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.