Top 5 brain boosters for every age

The brain is an amazing and complex organ, with around 100 billion neurons, interconnected by trillions of synapses, which affects almost all of our bodily functions.

At birth, the brain weighs about 1 pound and increases to approximately 3 pounds by adulthood. The brain changes many times during a lifetime with new neural connections being made and severed all the time.

In the first few years of life, brain development is extremely important but so is slowing the rate of brain decline as we age. So what can we do to help our brain health at any age? We take a look at the top 5 ways to maintain a healthy brain, from exercise and diet, to sleep and socialising. 

1. Regular physical activity

To prevent decline

To reduce age-related mental decline physical exercise has proved to be a winner. Increasing the heart rate pumps more oxygen to the brain and releases hormones, which provides a great environment for brain cells.

It also stimulates brain plasticity by stimulating new connections between cells. Recent research demonstrated that exercise can make it easier for the brain to grow new connections.

One study even showed that just half an hour of exercise improved an adult brain processing speed. So if you want to get into MENSA get out those running shoes!

For brain development

A 2018 study by the World Economic Forum found that “children who are physically fit have a greater volume of grey matter in the brain’s frontal and temporal regions and the calcarine cortex, all of which are important to executive function.” 

These help with learning, motor skills, and processing visual information. The study continued to find that children who were physically fit had better academic performance than their peers who were not participating in regular exercise.

School-aged children should have at least one hour or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day.

Simply, exercise is good for the brain at any age, so find an activity enjoy doing and get going! 

2. Intellectually stimulating activities

To prevent decline

The brain can benefit from a good workout just as the body does. Exercising your brain can help prevent beta-amyloid deposits from developing. These destructive proteins have been linked to things like Alzheimer’s disease.

Enjoying mentally stimulating activities such as reading, writing and playing games can stimulate the senses and improve brain health.

Robert Wilson, who conducted a study on brain ageing said, “Our study suggests that exercising your brain by taking part in activities such as these across a person’s lifetime, from childhood through old age, is important for brain health in old age.”

For brain development

The first three years of a child’s life are critical for learning and development. Many parents ask how they can help their child’s brain develop. The best way is to actively engage your child through everyday activities like playing, reading and being there when he/she feels stressed.

As your child grows it's important to continue engaging in brain-stretching activities from reading to learning musical instruments to cooking and experiencing new things.

Simply, learning something new and experiencing new things is good for us at any age. 

3. Social activity

To prevent decline

Social interaction is really important for maintaining health and happiness. Social interaction can help protect memory and cognitive function in several ways as you age.

Research shows that people with larger social networks are less likely to experience cognitive declines than those without Having larger support network can also help to lower stress levels.

By being social several parts of your brain need to be engaged to listen, converse and remember. The old saying ‘use it or lose it’ turns out to be true - using your brain in social situations helps to keep it strong.

For brain development

Parents and carers have a massive influence on a child's brain development. A child's initial experience of interaction is formed by these relationships. The social interactions a child has influences the way a child will think, feel and act in the future.

Neural connections grow through positive emotional relationships. As a child develops confidence in socialising, experiencing new environments and relationships, these social skills develop and brain connections are strengthened.

So at any age, social activity is good for us. Meeting with friends, playing sport or simply chatting at the supermarket are all good for our brain health. 

4. Diet

To prevent decline

Our brain uses 20% of the calories that we eat each day and science is now linking what we eat to brain ageing. Nutrients including Omega 3, Vitamin D and flavonoids are being linked to maintaining cognitive skills in older age.

In 2018, researchers linked omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the blood with healthy brain ageing.

Research by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign discovered that middle-aged people with higher levels of lutein — which is a nutrient present in green leafy vegetables, such as kale and spinach — had similar neural responses to younger individuals than those of people of the same age.

Some great foods to include in your diet to prevent brain decline are:

Leafy green Vegetables - B vitamins are very important for brain health, as they provide the energy needed to build new brain cells. They also provide a protective coating on the actual which helps fight natural degradation.

Vegetables, such as wheatgrass, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower have high levels of B vitamins!

Berries - Berries stimulate the production of new brain cells and help to get rid of toxic proteins which is great for the ageing brain.

Turmeric - Turmeric helps ease the blood flow of the vessels in the brain due to its anti-inflammatory properties.

Chocolate - Dark chocolate is full of flavonoids which are a great antioxidant and has been associated with boosting memory and slowing dementia.

For brain development

The first years of a child’s life are the building blocks for what is to follow. Food plays an important role in this, from breast milk onwards, what your child consumes can affect the brain's development.

Some great foods for brain development are:

Eggs High in choline, protein, iron and folate eggs are great for the growth and development of cells. Choline helps create memory cells in the brain so is a great food to encourage your child to eat.

Fish - omega-3 is vital for brain development and is one of the building blocks for cell development. Some studies Other studies have linked poorer reading ability with low levels of omega-3. Adding oily fish into the diet can boost Omega 3 levels.

Wholegrains - Full of carbohydrates, whole grains provide essential glucose and energy to fuel the brain.

Berries - bursting with vitamin C, which means it plays a crucial role in neutralising naturally occurring free radicals that cause damage to our DNA and cells.

Raspberries, dark cherries, mulberries and goji berries are other superstars in this category.

Leafy Greens - Getting your child to eat leafy greens may be challenging, but research suggests these nutritious vegetables are important for kids’ brain health.

Green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and lettuce contain brain-protecting compounds, including folate, flavonoids, carotenoids, and vitamins E and

At any age diet is important and taking these few small steps can help booster brain health.

5. Sleep Well

To prevent decline

Sleep disruption is common in older people and for anyone lacking in sleep, this can be disruptive. Daytime sleepiness, which may be a symptom of a sleep disorder, has been associated with an increased risk for dementia.

Older adults may benefit from good sleep strategies, such as going to bed and waking up at the same time each day.

For brain development

Sleep is important for everyone but particularly for children as this is when the brain develops. According to a Canadian study published in 2008, children who get less than 10 hours of sleep every night before age 3 are more likely to develop language and reading problems among other brain disorders like ADHD as they grow older.

Developing a sleep routine can help to ensure that your child gets the best sleep for the best brain development.

Boosting brain health is important for everyone at any age and by following these few steps, we can all move in the right direction.

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