Brain health starts in the body

Here are seven ways to keep your brain healthy.

Besides heart disease and cancers, a major cause of death in American adults is a decline in brain health. While science can’t say what triggers brain disorders in many cases, some research points to the link between diet and brain health.

Christopher B. Shields, M.D., has been focused on the links between lifestyle and brain health for quite some time. As a neurosurgeon and chairman of Norton Neuroscience Institute, he has a vested interest in educating the community on dementia and memory loss. Here are some of his guidelines for ways to potentially delay the onset of diseases like Alzheimer’s and keep your brain healthy:

  1. Focus on the quality of food first, quantity second. In general, people should drastically reduce the amount of sugar, carbohydrates and starch in their diets, especially that found in processed and fast foods. Eat a good amount of high-protein foods, and include good fats as well.
  2. Get good sleep. Adequate sleep has been shown to keep some diseases at bay, including diabetes. It also can also help with depression, anxiety and weight maintenance.
  3. Get moving. It may seem that every doctor tells you exercise will fix whatever ails you. Exercise does seem to have benefits across the board, from building muscle and lung function to strengthening the heart and relaxing the mind. Even walking for 20 minutes a day five days a week can improve the body. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is another option — Dr. Shields is a fan.
  4. Emotional health is important, too. Emotional coping mechanisms are critical to overall health. Work on reducing stress and building emotional resiliency. Meditation, reading self-help books and watching motivational videos are all ways to keep your mind healthy.
  5. Pump some iron. You don’t have to bench press a bulldozer, but weight-bearing exercise and lifting weights can help maintain bone and muscle as we age.
  6. Maintain a healthy weight. Weight causes the body to age faster. A healthy, high-protein/low-sugar diet slows aging and possibly can ward off dementia for a time.
  7. Check your gut. There are about 10 times as many bacterial cells in your gastrointestinal tract as there are cells in your whole body. These bacteria produce your own unique gut microbiome, the contents of which can affect your mood, personality, behavior and more. Eating foods like kefir that support a healthy gut microbiome can be extremely good for you.

To sum it up, Dr. Shields said, “There are things we can do earlier in life that can really beneficially affect our health and delay or prevent dementia.”

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