How Sleep, Diet and Exercise Affect Your Brain Health
As a society, we are finally beginning to understand the importance of taking care of our bodies. We are more aware of the things we put into our bodies and how they affect our overall health. But what about our brains? Just like our bodies, our brains need proper nutrition, exercise, and sleep to function at their best.
In my book, The Healthy Brain Toolbox, I talk about seven tools that will help you improve and protect your brain.
The first tool is sleep.
Did you know that many Americans don’t get enough sleep?
In our office, we noted that at least one out of three adults is not getting enough sleep. This can have a consequential impact on the brain. Older adults who aren’t getting enough sleep are at increased risk for diseases like Alzheimer’s disease.
In middle age, Alzheimer’s disease can start. We know this because the condition starts long before the illness actually happens. But here’s the thing: the lack of sleep impacts the brain in a lot of different ways.
If you want to be more productive, you need to sleep enough. If you’re always tired and grabbing coffee during the day, that might mean you’re not sleeping enough.
It’s happened to me. I bought an Apple watch, and I tracked my sleep. I found that if I went to sleep a little bit earlier, I could get seven to eight hours of sleep, which would allow me to wake up feeling refreshed and reduce my risk of developing a brain illness in the long run.
Here is what you can do to protect your brain: Get enough sleep by going to bed earlier or sleeping a little later, if possible. Make sure you get quality sleep for seven or eight hours. This will help keep your brain healthy and reduce your risk of developing conditions like Alzheimer’s disease in the future.
The second tool is eat.
Did you know that 678,000 people die each year from an unhealthy diet? And yet, based on my experience, I would say this could even be higher.
Most chronic diseases these days can be traced back to diet. Remember when your grandmother said, “Eat everything on your plate.” Or we used to say, “You are what you eat.” Well, guess what? You are what you eat.
So what should you be eating? You may hear me talk about something called an “anti-inflammatory diet.” This is because a process called inflammation contributes to most of the diseases I treat in my office that affect the brain. An anti-inflammatory diet consists of eating plenty of vegetables, and sometimes it is also referred to as a Mediterranean diet.
So what should your plate look like? First of all, think about the edges of a supermarket. That’s where you’ll find delicious fruits and vegetables. Most of your plate should be vegetables. You can roast them, steam them, or sauté them in healthy oils like avocado oil.
Think about nuts, seeds, and fruits too. Especially fruits like berries: strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries. The reason is that these are the types of fruits that, when you eat them, don’t raise your blood sugar too much. Sounds good, right? High blood sugar triggers inflammation, and when it affects the brain, you’ll have diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS, and multiple sclerosis. Avoid sugary fruits as much as possible.
The anti-inflammatory diet also includes lean meats. It is wise to prefer grass-fed beef, which is higher in Omega-3 fatty acids and anti-inflammatory fats, in our diet. Add the SMASH fish too. These are:
Poultry, such as free-range chicken, is also on the list. We want to eat foods that come from nature because they have benefits for us. But when we eat foods made in factories, we can get diseases.
You can always rely on chocolate to make everything better, including your mood. Treat yourself with 80% or higher dark cocoa content for the perfect pick-me-up.
When I changed my diet, I went from having unpleasant stomach sensations to feeling lean and healthy. I didn’t have any bloating or any problems going to the bathroom.
Your brain is healthy when your gut is healthy. It is important to look at the label and think about whether you need a chemistry degree to understand all of the ingredients. If you do, it could be a sign that the food isn’t real. Real food usually has three or fewer ingredients. However, just because a food has more than three ingredients doesn’t mean it’s bad for you. Get to know what all of the ingredients are. Just remember, if a food has more than three ingredients, it might not be good for your health.
The third tool is move.
Did you know that only 23% of Americans get enough exercise? Exercise during your adult years can reduce your risk of dementia by as much as 30%. That’s considerable at a time when we don’t even have a medicine to treat conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.
If you’re not used to exercising or getting out in the sunshine, you should make some goals.
Start by walking a block or two. You can get in a lot of steps each day by using an app on your phone or other devices. Try to get in 1,000 steps at first. Once you’re comfortable with that, try to get in 2,000 steps. Then aim to get in as many as 6,000 steps each day. You can do this by gradually increasing your daily step count over time.
Eventually, I encourage you to do exercises that raise your heart rate a little bit for short periods of time, unless otherwise advised by your doctor. By raising your heart rate for brief periods, you can do even more to preserve and protect your brain. These kinds of exercises known as High Intensity Interval Training (a.k.a. HIIT Exercises) can have an even greater impact than simply walking.
What happens if you don’t exercise?
Have you ever heard the expression, “Sitting is the new smoking”? It’s absolutely true. People who spend a lot of time sitting down are at an increased risk of developing diseases like dementia and certain types of cancer. Therefore, it’s important to get up on your feet and move around.
Attempt to move in the most natural way possible. This could mean lots of walking and arm movement, but it may also require a little more effort from you for brief periods throughout your day. There should be enough effort to get your heart rate up and your body moving, which requires some thought. For example, dancing and boxing can be great exercises to utilize your brain while increasing your heart rate or building strength.
Everyone has a different idea of what exercise is. If you’re not doing any exercise right now, start by walking. If you’re already walking, try to walk a bit faster. If you’re doing exercises that make your heart rate go up, try doing strength training too. Let us aim to exercise for at least 30 minutes every day so that our brain and body can stay healthy.
The first chapter of my book is available for free. In this short reading, I share some insights on how you can improve your brain health and achieve more in life. Download for free here. Would you like to know more about the four tools for a healthy brain that I just mentioned? Stay tuned for the next post, in which we will discuss everything cognitive function!
That’s all for now, but stay tuned because, in our next content, we will be talking more about the four tools for a healthy brain. In the meantime, if you want to learn more about how sleep, diet, and exercise can affect your brain health, please reach out. We would be happy to schedule a discovery call with you so you can find out how we can help you achieve your cognitive goals. Thanks for reading!
If you would like more information about our services or want to schedule a discovery call, please contact us today. We would be happy to chat with you about how we can help improve your cognitive function. We’d be happy to schedule a discovery call with you. During this call, we can discuss your symptoms in more detail and come up with a plan tailored specifically for you.
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DISCLAIMER: The information in this email is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All content is for general informational purposes only and does not replace a consultation with your own doctor/health professional.