Our brains are amazing; not only is the brain responsible for keeping our body going, but it is also where we control aspects such as memory, speech and emotions. So, what does it actually do and why is looking after the health of our brain so important?
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What Does The Brain Do?
The brain is essentially the control system for the body and without it, your body basically wouldn’t work! The average adult brain weighs around 3 pounds and is responsible for a multitude of functions. This includes speech, memory, emotions, personality, behaviour, intelligence, language, sense of pain, organ function, body movement and the understanding of our senses. To do all that it takes a lot of energy and resources; in total, the brain requires around 20% of the blood and oxygen in the body and has over 100 billion neurons!
How Does The Brain Work?
Firstly, the brain receives information from our five senses: touch, sight, smell, taste and hearing. The brain then interprets these messages and creates meaning from them. It then tells the body how to react (such as whether to speak or move) and then stores the information in our short term memory. When we sleep, this information is then converted into our long-term memory.
The brain is also made up of 2 halves called the left and right hemispheres. These are responsible for different functions and control opposite sides of the body. The left hemisphere controls aspects such as writing, arithmetic, speech and comprehension whilst the right hemisphere controls aspects such as creativity, spatial awareness and musical skills. This is why there is a theory that people have a more dominant hemisphere that reflects your personality more and so you are either left or right-brained.
The brain is also part of the central nervous system along with the spinal cord. This is how the brain communicates with the rest of the body and receives and sends messages. It does this by using nerve cells called neurons which send chemical and electrical signals across pathways called synapses.
Symptoms of Poor Brain Health
A healthy brain can perform all these functions at optimum capacity, however, one that is not so healthy or is experiencing issues can lead to problems such as memory loss, speech impairments, strokes and even contribute towards illnesses such as Alzheimers, Dementia, Parkinsons and Epilepsy. Whilst there are many causes for issues in the brain, there are some common symptoms to look out for. Please remember though that having one or more of these symptoms might just mean your brain is not performing at its best and has ‘brain-fog’ and is not necessarily a symptom of a brain disease!
- Memory loss
- ‘Brain Fog’
- Lack of concentration
- Changes in personality
- Changes in mood
- Difficulty moving
- Lack of balance
- Decreased alertness
What Causes Poor Brain Health?
There is a whole range of potential causes of poor brain health; when it comes to many diseases, most of these are simply due to factors we cannot change such as age or genetics, but general issues with your brain such as a ‘brain-fog’, a lack of focus and difficulty remembering things could be caused by lifestyle. Here are some of the most common causes of issues with your brain health:
- An unhealthy diet
- Lack of regular exercise
- Illnesses and diseases
- Mental health issues
How to Look After Your Brain
The best way to look after your brain to keep it alert and functioning at its maximum is to keep it and your body healthy. Here are some of the best ways to look after your brain health:
- Eat a healthy balanced diet
- Add brain-boosting foods to your day
- Take brain health supplements
- Use prebiotics and probiotics
- Try to keep your mood balanced
- Drink plenty of water
- Get regular exercise
- Keep stress levels down
- Try not to multitask too much
- Put aside time for being mindful
- Don’t spend too much time in front of screens
- Do mind exercises such as a sudoku
Foods For Brain Health
One of the best ways to boost your brain health and nutrition to clear ‘mind fog’ is to take care of your diet. Whilst a healthy and balanced diet will improve the health of your brain, there are also specific foods and ingredients you should be adding to your daily routine to give your brain a boost.
These are a rich source of Omega 3 fatty acids that are known to support brain health. Examples include salmon, cod, tuna and krill.
Plant-Based Omega 3 Sources
Also rich in Omega-3 for the brain but suitable for vegans and those that dislike fish. Examples of these include flaxseeds, chia seeds and algae oil.
Green Leafy Vegetables
These contain brain-health nutrients such as Vitamin K, lutein, folate, and beta carotene. Examples are broccoli, kale and spinach.
As a natural source of Omega 3, hemp (unlike its psychoactive counterpart) is a safe way to boost brain health.
Rich in flavonoids that can help to improve memory. Examples include strawberries, raspberries and blueberries.
Contains antioxidants that can help to protect the brain from free-radicals that can lead to oxidative stress and cognitive decline.
These are a good source of Vitamin E which helps to nourish and protect the brain. Examples include brown rice, barley and oats.
Tea and Coffee
Thanks to the caffeine found in these, it can give an energy boost to help with concentration, focus and mental performance.
These are excellent brain foods as they are a source of Vitamin B6, B12 and folic acid which help prevent brain shrinkage.
As a source of healthy unsaturated fats, avocados can help with high blood pressure which is linked to cognitive decline.
This ingredient contains B vitamins which contribute to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue and to psychological function.
A source of protein and healthy fats that can improve and support cognitive function as well as look after the heart.
Your brain is essential to your health and wellbeing, so it is vitally important that you do what you can to care for its health. Whether it’s by adding a bit more exercise to your day, trying out mind exercises or adding brain-boosting foods to your diet, there are plenty of simple ways to improve your brain health that you can begin with today!