One of the most common symptoms that I hear in my clinic is the complaint that “my brain doesn’t work like it used to”, such as mild memory loss (can’t remember names, lose the car keys, etc…), difficulty concentrating, “foggy brain”, and depressed mood. Most dismiss this as a normal part of aging; however, this is a sign that the brain is not getting what it needs. Or it may also be a symptom of chronic inflammation that can lead to the development of chronic disease. Pay attention to these signals of your body and take action now.
- Exercise is the most powerful optimizer of brain function. Exercise increases the size of the area of the brain that stores memory. Exercise improves memory, concentration and mood. Studies show that it is one of the most effective ways to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s and is the more effective than medication for the treatment of depression. If you are not exercising, it is imperative for your brain that you start now.
- The brain thrives on healthy fats – every day you should eat healthy oils from plants (such as olive, coconut, flax, walnut and avocado oils), nuts & seeds (best for your brain are walnuts and pumpkin seeds), and oily fish (wild salmon, anchovies, sardines, mackerel and trout).
- Challenge your brain with focused activities such as meditation, reading, crossword puzzles and memory games. If you don’t use it, you will lose it.
- Sleep is the time when your brain repairs damage and creates new connections. Do everything in your power to get 7 hours of sleep. Get out in the sun during the day and turn off TV and electronics well before you are ready to sleep. This signals your brain to maintain your circadian rhythms.
- Cut sugar and flour from your diet. Excess sugar causes inflammation, which is the common link to dementia, cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis. A study from the New England Journal of Medicine showed that even slightly elevated blood sugar increases your risk of dementia. Ask your doctor to check your A1C level (average blood sugar) and your CRP (inflammation).
- Eat a rainbow of veggies and fruits! Vegetables and fruits are packed with vital nutrients that protect the brain from damage. You should be eating at least 5 servings per day. Healthiest for the brain are greens (such as kale, spinach), cruciferous veggies (such as broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts), avocados, and berries.
- Consider a trial of a gluten free diet because some people have neurological symptoms such as brain fog when they consume gluten (any foods with wheat, barley, and rye).
- Relaxation such as yoga, meditation, listening to music, spending time with family, reading and prayer can combat stress and promote brain optimal brain function. All of these activities reduce the chronic stress which can impair the memory and also increase inflammation.