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Don't Forget - Your Brain Needs To Keep Fit Too!

Don't Forget - Your Brain Needs To Keep Fit Too!

1. Eat A Balanced Diet

It’s not just your body that needs a balanced, healthy diet to keep fit and well. Your brain too needs the right nutrients to keep it working efficiently and the typical Mediterranean diet is recommended for both body and mind. Although there is no single “brain food” to protect you from disorders such as Alzheimer’s or dementia, eating the right foods gives you the best chance to maintain cognitive health - giving a whole new meaning to "food for thought". These foods include:
  • Wholegrain bread and cereals with a low glycaemic index, which release a steady supply of glucose into your blood throughout the day, keeping you mentally alert.
  • Eggs, which contain B vitamins and folic acid, delay brain shrinkage, preventing strokes and cognitive impairment.
  • Oily fish such as salmon or sardines, which contain Omega 3 fats, are thought to help make the good mood neurotransmitter, serotonin, helping the brain manage stress. For vegetarians, soya beans, nuts, pumpkin seeds and olive oil have a similar effect.
  • Dark purple fruits and vegetables such as blueberries, blackcurrants and beetroot, containing compounds called anthocyanins, are thought to improve memory.
  • Tomatoes, especially cooked ones (even ketchup!) contain lycopene, a powerful antioxidant to prevent free radicle damage to brain cells.
  • Brightly coloured fruits and green vegetables should form the bulk of your diet, as they contain numerous vitamins and minerals for optimum physical and mental health.
  • Sage has a reputation for improving memory and cognition – after all, a “sage” is another name for a wise man!
2. Take A Break

Especially if you sit in front of a computer terminal all day, you need to take a break at least every 90 minutes. The prefrontal cortex or thinking part of your brain keeps you focused, enables you to concentrate and is responsible for logical thinking and willpower. No wonder it needs a bit of rest and relaxation! So get up, walk about, do some stretches, enjoy a hot drink or chat to colleagues. On returning to work, you’ll feel re-charged, more motivated, more creative and less fatigued.

3. Exercise Regularly

Not only is exercise beneficial to the body, but also research shows that regular aerobic exercise appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the area of the brain involved in learning and memory. Exercise also reduces insulin resistance and inflammation, and stimulates the release of chemicals in the brain that affect the growth of new blood vessels and the health, abundance and survival of new brain cells. It increases attention and improves your mood by stimulating the production of serotonin, the feel-good brain chemical.

4. Get Enough Sleep

It’s well known that regular exercise helps you sleep and a good 7-8 hours sleep a night is essential for brain health. During sleep, toxins that build up in the brain during the day are flushed out, memories are consolidated and the mind and body are rested and refreshed. You can’t function properly when you’re tired, and a lack of sleep impairs your reasoning, problem solving, productivity and attention to detail. So, to keep mentally alert, establish a regular routine; try to go to bed at the same time, avoid looking at screens for at least an hour before bedtime and keep your bed warm but your bedroom cool, quiet and dark.

5. Do Daily Mental Workouts

Just like the muscles in your body, your brain needs exercise to keep it functioning well. The brain’s cognitive reserve – its ability to withstand damage due to ageing and other factors – diminishes over time. Performing regular brain exercises that test your memory and challenge your logical and problem-solving skills can mitigate this effect. Doing crossword puzzles, word searches or Sudoku, learning a language or taking part in your local pub quiz, all help to stimulate your brain and give it the regular workout that both mind and body need to keep fit and healthy.

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