6 Ways to Support Your Brain Function This Fall
As fall approaches, our thoughts naturally turn to education and learning as many of those around us return to school. In fact, many of us who have been out of school for years still mark the beginning of a new year in the fall. We are all ready for something new, some way to enhance our health, and thus our lives, and promoting the power of our brain is one way to improve upon many aspects of our health and longevity. Here are six changes you can make this fall to boost your brain function, whether you are going to school or not:
Exercise - Exercise helps almost every system in our body function better, particularly the brain. Regular exercise increases focus, improves memory, reduces depression, stress and anxiety, and results in better quality of sleep, which also promotes healthy brain function. To see these benefits, we need to be doing at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise at least four days a week.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids - If I had to pick one thing to add to your diet to improve your brain function, it would undoubtedly be foods and supplements rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon, for example, is rich in both DHA and EPA, both essential for brain growth and function. Fish is best wild, fresh, and sustainable, but if you can’t get that, buy frozen. There are also a plethora of supplements available containing high amounts of DHA and EPA, in both liquid and encapsulated form. Omega-3 fatty acids are particularly important during brain development, so they are especially beneficial during pregnancy, postpartum, and in growing children.
Antioxidants - Antioxidants do their work by binding to free radicals, which would otherwise run free causing damage at the cellular level. It is thought that free radicals are responsible for many of the signs of aging, internally and externally. If these free radicals become “quenched” by an antioxidant, they are unable to do any harm. In this way, we know that antioxidants protect the nervous system and may actually prevent or delay the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. They also help to enhance the ability of your brain to learn. Antioxidants are found naturally in darkly coloured fruits and vegetables, such as berries. You can also boost the level of antioxidants in your diet by incorporating a basic supplement containing vitamins A, C, E, Selenium, and Zinc (ACES plus Zinc).
B Vitamins - B vitamins are another group of nutrients that support nervous system function. While it is possible to get some of these vitamins by including foods such as dark, leafy green vegetables, poultry, red meat, fresh fish and dairy, it is a great idea to boost your intake by taking a daily supplement, or by incorporating a protein shake into your diet that has high amounts of all of the B vitamins, including folate. B vitamins help to stabilize mood, and decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Water - Adequate hydrations from a clean water source has numerous health benefits, including cognitive function. Mild dehydration, which is a state many of us are in daily, can cause difficulty concentrating, increased perception of task difficulty, mood disturbances, headaches, and fatigue. Drink water throughout the day, everyday. Keep water next to your bed. Teach your kids to choose water over pop, and flavour the water with a small amount of juice if necessary.
Sleep - Sleep is perhaps one of the single most beneficial things you can do for your overall health and well being. Unfortunately, insufficient sleep is occurring at epidemic levels in our generation and there are some very clear effects that lack of sleep is having on brain function. It is apparent that lack of sleep promotes mood disorders, difficulty concentrating, impaired cognition and memory function, and in some studies it appears that chronic sleep loss can result in irreversible damage in a particular type of brain cell. Sleep needs are not consistent for everyone, but at least seven hours of sleep is essential for adults, and more for young children and teenagers in school.
Optimal brain function is so important to us having productive, meaningful, and long, healthy lives. The benefits of promoting brain health begin when we are still in utero, and only increase when we are in school and beyond. Regardless of where we are at today, we can still improve upon our current brain function and offer some protection to our cells in the future, in addition to teaching our children habits that will be integral to their long term health.