Heidi Billington - Naturopath
One of the greatest worries many of us have as we age is the possibility of losing our mental sharpness and memory, but it’s not just aging that can have an impact on the health of our brain; stress, exams, hormones and other lifestyle factors all play their part.
Taking care of your brain is important at any age. Whether we are young or old, busy running after kids or running a business, there will always be times when we forget someone’s name or walk into a room and wonder what we came in there for. It’s when these slip-ups become a regular occurrence that it might be a warning sign your brain is on overload!
So what can we do to support our brain and keep it alert, sharp and healthy?
Give your brain the nutrients it needs to function at its best. Did you know your brain is made up of 60% fat? Eat foods high in essential fatty acids such as oily fish, nuts and seeds and limit foods such as saturated fats, coffee, alcohol and refined sugars. Investigations have shown that a Mediterranean-style diet (which is high in fresh fruit, vegetables, legumes, with moderate consumption of oily fish and low in meat, sugar and saturated fat) is associated with slower rates of decline in memory and thinking.
Learn to take life a little bit lighter. Responsibility, deadlines and pressure at work or home can make even the most poised person feel like they are losing their mind! Take regular breaks throughout the day, stop what you are doing and focus on your breathing for 5 minutes. This gives your body and mind time to reconnect and leaves a sense of calmness and a clearer mental state. Try it and see how it makes you feel.
Our brain needs exercise both physically and mentally. Physical exercise is important as it increases blood circulation which in turn helps pump the oxygen around our bodies and to our brain. Being physically active for at least 30 minutes for 5 days per week helps maintain your brain health. Try mentally stimulating activities such as suduko and crosswords on a regular basis and get creative with crafts and new hobbies. Remember the brain is like a muscle; the more you work it the stronger it becomes!
Experiment with the ancient powers of traditional herbs. Gingko biloba is a tree with a long history of use in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It helps to maintain healthy blood flow to the capillaries that nourish brain cells and contain antioxidant properties that protect capillaries from free radical damage. Healtheries Memory & Brain Power provides the equivalent of 4000mg of Ginkgo biloba dry leaf and may help support mental alertness and memory. Brahmi (Bacopa) is another traditional Ayurvedic herb used as a brain tonic to assist memory, cognitive function and learning skills.
Most importantly don’t forget that what we think can impact how we feel. A healthy brain is one that contains positive thoughts. Try and challenge negative emotions by putting a positive spin on them. For example when you feel frustrated and overwhelmed think of three things you are grateful for in your life. It’s hard to be angry and grateful at the same time. We can’t change the weather, but we can let the sun shine out from within.