When discussing health, it seems there is always a need to reduce or “shrink” different components when they get out of balance. We need to shrink our waist size when the diet has gotten a little too lenient. We want to shrink cholesterol and blood pressure if they pose a risk to our heart health. Or it may be a reduction in blood sugar if the threat of diabetes is on the horizon. But never do we hear of anyone wanting to shrink their brain!
Quite the contrary, we’d like to hold on to as much healthy brain matter as possible to keep mental function optimal and avoid possible age-related complications like Alzheimer’s and dementia. Recently we discussed the implications that diabetes has on brain size, so now it would be a good time to focus on how to keep it as healthy as possible.
The basics are always a must in every case. We need proper sleep every night in order for our brains to detoxify and run at peak performance. Regular mental stimulation is necessary to keep the senses sharp and cognitive skills at their best. But don’t forget that the brain is our most vital organ and we need to make sure that we are fueling it properly and supporting it to prevent damage and waste product accumulation.
Omega-3 essential fatty acids are one of the most important nutrients for your brain health and overall health. Omega-3 fats build brain cell membranes, reduce brain inflammation, and promote new brain cell formation. Chronic inflammation can play a role in brain fog, ADHD, anxiety, depression, and memory loss. Omega-3 fats can improve your mood and memory and give you protection against brain disorders ranging from depression to dementia. There are two main omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, with DHA being a primary structural component of the brain. People with a low DHA level actually have smaller brains and exhibit more cognitive impairment than those with an adequate level.
Your B vitamins also play a significant role in keeping your brain healthy. Elevated homocysteine levels have been linked to brain degeneration and shrinkage. Your body uses vitamins B6, B12 and folate to help convert homocysteine into methionine — a building block for proteins. By doing this, it decreases homocysteine accumulation in your tissues, which is another promoter of inflammation that can lead to dementia.
Research has also shown that these three B vitamins specifically protect areas of the brain that are most commonly affected by Alzheimer’s. They not only protect by decreasing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, but have actually shown to be able to slow down the process of shrinking and damage once the condition has already begun. Therefore, your best bet to keeping your human CPU functioning at its best is to support it early and often with healthy dietary choices.
What are some of the best sources of these nutrients? They just happen to be some of the healthiest foods you should be incorporating into your diet regularly:
- Omega-3’s – fish like salmon, sardines or anchovies, or from a good supplement if you are “seafood averse”
- B12 – only comes from animal sources, so healthy proteins like poultry or lean meats
- Folate – leafy green vegetables, broccoli, asparagus and from most legumes.
- B6 – animal sources like salmon or chicken, or plant sources like avocado, spinach, sweet potato or sunflower seeds
Learning how to build a healthy diet can be challenging for many people, with all the conflicting and varied information that is out there. We help patients wade through the confusion and create a diet that not only supports good, basic health, but also addresses any specific needs they may have. A well-rounded, balanced diet is not only necessary as a cornerstone of health, but it is also your key to keeping brain shrinkage to a minimum and your mental function at its maximum.