Although the current literature about maintaining brain health is geared toward the elderly population, the information in this article is important for the entire population. No one is too young to start thinking about keeping his or her brain as healthy as possible.
The following are suggestions anyone can take to promote a healthy brain:
• Maintain a healthy cardiovascular system. This can be done by treating or preventing conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart and blood vessel disease.
• Exercise. Just 30 minutes of aerobic exercise at least five days a week will help to increase your heart rate and boost the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the brain. (Even a small amount of exercise is better than none.)
• Weight control. Try to maintain what your doctor figures should be your ideal weight to help avoid conditions that include heart disease, diabetes and overall stress and strain to the body.
• Watch your diet. Try to eat more of what is referred to as the “Mediterranean diet.” This diet avoids saturated and trans fats and emphasizes lean meat, fruits, vegetables, fish, whole grains, healthy fats such as canola and olive oil, nuts and legumes, such as beans, peas and lentils.
• Consider taking omega-3 supplements. These are important fatty acids that are beneficial to the brain and can be bought at pharmacies and health food stores.
• Avoid unhealthy behaviors. Don’t smoke or use any tobacco product. If you choose to drink, do so in moderation, which is now considered to be no more than one drink a day for women and two drinks for men.
• Get adequate sleep. Seven hours or more of good sleep per day is deemed necessary to maintain a healthy brain.
• Stimulate your mind. Challenge your brain with memory tasks, learn new information, engage in frequent social interactions and pursue a variety of stimulating activities, such as crossword puzzles, Sudoku, card games, and so on.
• Don’t worry — be happy. Think positively, learn to tolerate uncertainty, spend time with upbeat people and try to improve your feelings of self-worth.
Some people, unfortunately, will have an abnormal deterioration of their brain function because of bad genes, illness, or diseases over which they have no control. However, current research shows that the previously mentioned suggestions could be beneficial in maintaining a healthy brain.
• Terry Hollenbeck, M.D., is an urgent-care physician at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation Santa Cruz in Scotts Valley. A doctor with 36 years’ experience, he invites readers to view his previous columns at his website, valleydoctor.wordpress.com. Information in this column is not intended to replace advice from your own health care professional. For any medical concern, consult your own doctor.