10 Ways To Future-Proof Your Brain

10 Ways To Future-Proof Your Brain

With the number of people suffering from dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases set to soar by more than 200% by 2050, it’s never been timelier to think about brain health. We sat down with author of 'Reboot Your Brain', Sara Davenport, to find out what practices we can all cultivate for a sharper mind…

Understand It Matters

“The biggest modern health threats are mental health issues and dementia. Statistics show one in four people in the UK will suffer from anxiety and depression in any given year and on top of that, dementia affects one in eight of our increasingly ageing population, now as frightening as the threat of cancer. I fervently believe it’s never too early to start thinking about brain health, even if it doesn’t seem like something worth investing in when your brain is working at optimal capacity.”

Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

“The Mito Diet – a food plan designed to support healthy mitochondria (the tiny batteries that power up your brain cells; they generate more than 90% of the energy your body needs to live, and your brain to function) – is a great way to future-proof the brain. It’s an anti-inflammatory, gluten-free, high-quality fat, low-grain and low-glycemic diet. Research shows calorie and carbohydrate restriction, along with eating lean, clean (pesticide and toxin-free) proteins, high-quality fats and oils, and more plant foods, may help prevent or slow down neurological disease. Foods recommended on the plan include wild Alaskan salmon, mackerel, sardines, cod, elk, venison, grass-fed lamb, blueberries, avocado, nuts and seeds.”

Up Your Omegas

“The brain is 60% fat and needs several types of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids to function optimally. These include ALA, EPA and DHA, all commonly found in oily fish, and studies show omega-3s work in tandem to offset neurodegenerative symptoms. Krill oil, made from the tiny crustaceans that feed on the phytoplankton in the depths of the oceans, is the purest source of omega-3. It has been extensively studied and found to reduce inflammation better than other fish oils.”

Consider Vitamin B

“There are eight different B vitamins, and many play a crucial role in brain health, particularly in mental energy and brain-repair processes. All are important but most research has concentrated on three: B6, B12 and B9 (folate, the natural form, or folic acid, its synthetic form). Vitamin B12 is particularly important for brain health and something most of us need to consider taking as a daily supplement. Unlike some vitamins, B12 is stored by the body for long-term use, which means that deficiency can take time to develop. Vegans are particularly at risk of deficiency, as B12 is only found in animal products.” 

Look To Antioxidants

“Neurodegenerative diseases, such as dementia, are characterised by high levels of oxidative stress in the brain, so antioxidants can help counteract this. Vitamin C plays a key part in several enzyme reactions, helping the body absorb key nutrients, including iron, and boosts production of neurotransmitters. Ensuring you eat your five portions of fruit and veg daily is an easy way to maintain levels of vitamin C. Vitamin E is another important antioxidant – it has been found to play a role in offsetting age-related degeneration and oxidative damage in the brain. Nuts and seeds are the best food source of vitamin E and if you are taking a supplement, be sure that it’s natural vitamin E, not a synthetic form. Also, eat plenty of meat, fish, poultry, soy bean and canola oils, which are rich in CoQ10, a potent antioxidant that can increase the size of the cerebral cortex and boost mitochondrial strength.”

Minimise Inflammation

“Caused by poor eating habits, viral or bacterial overload, or extreme stress, inflammation is the starting point for many diseases. It is also linked to high cholesterol levels, which can lead to a build-up of fatty plaques in your arteries and brain. When it comes to reducing inflammation, taking probiotics is a good place to start – psycho-biotics (probiotics designed to boost brain health) are also worth looking into. Consider supplementing with curcurmin, the active ingredient in turmeric and one of the most potent anti-inflammatories; adding more ginger to your diet (ginger switches off a signalling pathway that links inflammation with cancer and dementia); and taking BioBran, a natural supplement that’s one of the fastest ways to boost the immune system and get inflammation in check.”

Stay Active

“Exercise delivers increased oxygen and energy to the brain, and has been identified as a key way to encourage neuroplasticity – the formation of new neurons and the strengthening and growth of neural pathways in the brain. In fact, a recent study found cardio and weight training increased the volume of the hippocampus by two per cent and reversed age-related volume shrinkage by one to two years. The greatest benefits appear to come from HIIT training – one study found regularly incorporating interval training into your fitness regime can boost mitochondrial capacity by 49% in younger people and 69% in older people.”

Reduce Stress

“Stress is the number one cause of mental exhaustion. It consumes energy voraciously and, unsurprisingly, takes its toll on your brain function. Stress can drain more than 70% of the blood from your frontal lobes – the area connected to thinking – depriving them of oxygen and impairing your ability to focus. Raised levels of cortisol, the hormone associated with stress, reduces the numbers of neurons in your hippocampus (the area that deals with learning, memory and emotional control) and destroys your mitochondria.  If you keep thinking the same negative thoughts, your cortisol will continue flowing, reducing your brain’s cognitive function in the process. Changing your thoughts is therefore vital for brain health – do this and you can literally change your brain."

Boost Gut Health

“There is mounting evidence to suggest the gut microbiome influences everything from depression to the risk of dementia, proving we literally are what we eat. Over 90% of your serotonin (the happy hormone) and 50% of your body’s dopamine is made by the gut, and if this flora is imbalanced it can affect mood, mental focus and memory. As well as a good probiotic supplement, also consider cutting sugar out of your diet (sugar triggers the release of inflammatory cytokines that impair cognitive clarity), exercising more and trying the ketogenic diet.”

Take Up Meditation

“It has long been understood that people who practice meditation regularly report feeling calmer and happier as a result, and take fewer sick days than those who don’t. Studies show regular meditation can trigger the growth of new brain cells and positively affect the frontal lobe – an area of the brain responsible for problem solving and impulse control. Meditators have also been shown to have higher volumes of brain tissue, reduced brain inflammation, well-balanced neurotransmitters and less stress.”

Reboot Your Brain by Sara Davenport is available now on Amazon, £12.99

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