10 Ways To Support Your Brain Health Daily, According To A Neuro Nurse
June is Brain Awareness Month, but it's always a good time to learn more ways we can support the health of the most complex and critical organs in our body.
As a registered nurse in the neurosurgery ICU step-down unit at Brigham and Women's Hospital, I deal with brains all the time. I see how important it is to protect our brain health now and as you age. From my brain to yours, here are my 10 ways to boost brain health:
Eat more real, whole foods.
Our brain is exposed to harmful stress every day due to lifestyle and environmental factors, resulting in a process called oxidation, which can affect brain cells. Nutrient-dense foods can help with this oxidation and can support the brain's health in significant ways.
Here are a few that are especially brain-boosting:
- Fatty fish like salmon and sardines can help maintain mental health and support cognitive function. Omega-3 fatty acids help promote the growth of new brain cells, plus help with memory and learning, as well.
- Turmeric aids in new brain cell growth.
- Eggs are a great source of choline, a micronutrient essential for creating acetylcholine—a neurotransmitter that regulates mood and memory.
- Walnuts contain ALA plant-based omega-3 fats, shown to help support cognitive function throughout aging. They even have a similar shape to the brain, so it's an easy one to remember!
Stimulate your mind.
Reading, writing, engaging your mind with crossword puzzles, playing games, etc., all help stimulate your mind and brain, promoting new connections between nerve cells and may even help generate new cells.
Poor sleep can affect mental and cognitive functioning, so it's important to prioritize sleep as much as any other well-being practice. I advise paying extra attention to your stress levels and seeking medical attention if your sleep is affecting your quality of life.
Manage your stress.
Speaking of stress, it's crucial for your overall well-being and brain health to keep stress at bay and to help manage what you can't eliminate. Research has found that stress in otherwise healthy individuals1 can cause areas of the brain associated with emotions, metabolism, and memory to decrease in volume.
Move your body.
In addition to the many benefits of physical activity that you likely already are aware of—such as better mood and energy, less stress, and an improvement in cardiovascular health outcomes and longevity—aerobic exercise may also activate certain benefits in the brain.
Have a community and stay connected.
Connecting with our community and engaging in social activities is associated with an increase in brain longevity.3 Socializing helps decrease stress levels and engages the mind for plenty of brain-boosting benefits.
Learn something new.
Studies show that everyday forms of learning set off neuron receptors that help keep our brain cells performing at their best. This process is also linked to theta rhythms, which are learning-related brain rhythms that play a vital role in encoding new memories. Also, music, dance, art, and exercise help with neuroplasticity—where the brain can rewire itself, forming new neural connections to grow and change shape. Fascinating!
Practice preventive health care.
Smoking and other heart and metabolic health concerns can all affect the health of your brain (read more about the connection between your heart and brain health here). There are a number of things you can do to reduce these health risks: such as getting your annual checkup and adopting the brain-supporting habits above. It's never too early (or too late) to start taking care of your brain!
Kristen Reed is a multiple-award-winning Registered Nurse and Certified Health & Wellness Coach with Bachelors’ degrees in Nursing & Psychology. She is a National Certified Health & Wellness Nurse Coach, National Board Certified Holistic Nurse, and an expert in women’s wellness, called “The Wellness Woman” by the Daily Item and "The Health Coach Nurse You Can Count On" by 01940 Magazine. Kristen is the founder and CEO of health and wellness practice “Nursing your Way to Wellness”, where she provides personalized Health & Wellness Coaching, Wellness programs, Corporate Wellness, Community Membership, Reiki therapy, and more! Please visit Kristen’s website to book a complimentary call and join her free email community to get her popular “Ultimate Self Care Starter Kit”!