Optimizing Brain Health And Cognitive Performance
Improving cerebral well-being and functionality
At all times, our decisions play a role in shaping our mental well-being. The aim of this article is to enhance the focus given to decisions that contribute to a sound mind.
Undeniably, a crucial aspect of maintaining optimal brain health is obtaining adequate sleep. As an evolutionary conserved mammalian function, an ideal 24-hour day includes a designated sleep period. The required duration for optimal sleep benefits varies considerably among individuals, spanning 5 to 10 hours nightly. Sleep allows the brain to reduce energy consumption and adopt a restorative stance, eliminating unwanted waste and replenishing the adenosine triphosphate (ATP) energy supply expended throughout the day. Sleep also facilitates immune processes, endocrine system recalibration, and the consolidation of daily experiences and information within the brain's cortical regions.
Sleep disorders are widespread, with around one-third of the US population reporting insomnia symptoms. In recent decades, sleep studies have advanced significantly, enabling routine diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders like sleep apnea. Sleep dysfunction can stem from various factors, such as genetics, environment, stress, medical conditions, or stimulant consumption. Despite the availability of numerous sleep hypnotics, the most effective treatment remains education on proper sleep hygiene.
Generally, recommendations for a healthy heart align with those for a healthy brain. Aerobic exercise consistently demonstrates positive effects on the brain, including improved cognitive functioning, reduced brain atrophy in older adults, enhanced well-being, decreased depression, and increased energy levels. Prior to initiating or intensifying aerobic exercise, consult your healthcare provider.
Humans are inherently social creatures. Numerous studies have examined communities worldwide where individuals frequently live to 100 years or more. These communities, dubbed "Blue Zones," share nine evidence-based common attributes, including a sense of purpose, daily stress-reduction practices, community belonging, family prioritization, and participation in social circles that reinforce healthy behaviors.
Daily stress-reduction practice
Chronic stress is a highly destructive physiological state. Various spiritual practices, religious practices, relaxation techniques, and meditation can help develop an anti-stress physiology.
Healthy and diverse diet
A well-known phrase, "you are what you eat," contains a wealth of wisdom. A healthy diet typically consists of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh fish, nuts, and unsaturated fats (including omega-3-fatty acids).
Drink ample water
Maintaining proper hydration with pure water is essential for overall physical health and brain health.
Avoid recreational drugs
This topic is too extensive to address fully here but in simple terms, avoiding recreational drugs is advised.
Learn new information daily
To promote improved brain functioning and cognitive reserve, learn new information in previously unknown areas.
Movement activities using all body parts
Engaging in new tasks, particularly complex ones, can contribute to a healthier brain. Activities such as dance and yoga have been shown to improve brain health.
Comply with evidence-based treatments for health-related conditions
After receiving an adequate diagnosis and being informed of all available treatment options, do your best to comply with the chosen treatment. This final recommendation will be further explored in a future editorial.
Our brains are intricate organs that constantly rewire in response to various factors, both within and beyond our control. We have learned a great deal about supporting brain health, just as we have for heart health. Each day, we make choices that can impact our brain health, and our challenge is to increase those choices that promote a healthy brain without judgment.
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