The brain is the complex organ of the body that requires constant care to ensure its full function and for as long as possible. There are several factors that can help keep a healthy and alert brain throughout our lives:
- Brain Activity
- Preventing Brain Injury
- Social Interactions
- Stopping or Limiting Alcohol Consumption
- Preventing Hyperglycemia
- Preventing Hypertension
- Reducing Cholesterol level
- Promoting Emotional Well-Being
- Keeping Out of Drug Consumption
Physical activity has been shown to inversely correlate with the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
A study that investigated data from 163797 individuals (without dementia) compared the risk of dementia between individuals that had a high physical activity and those with a lower physical activity .
They found that physical activity reduces the risk of dementia by 28% and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 45%.
Another study investigated the correlation between aerobic exercise and cognition and found that aerobic exercise improves attention, processing speed, and memory .
How does exercise Improve Brain Function?
- Exercise increases heart rate and blood flow which provide the brain with more oxygen and nutrients that are necessary for its metabolism and energy production.
- Exercise reduces or slows down cognitive deficits by promoting the production of new neurons in the hippocampus, a process known as hippocampal neurogenesis .
- Exercise increases the secretion of the growth factor BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor) that promotes the differentiation, survival, and plasticity (connections) of neurons .
A healthy diet provides nutrients that are essential for brain function, for the generation and maintenance of existing and new neurons.
Glucose is essential for the metabolism of the brain as it is required for the production of energy (ATP). However, too much glucose can have negative effects on the brain but also lead to chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
Amino acids are the building block for proteins that are necessary for the maintenance and activity of neurons which involves connecting with other neurons (neuronal plasticity) and for neurotransmission of information between the brain and the rest of the body.
Vitamins work as coenzymes (help the activities of enzymes) in the metabolism of carbohydrates, lipids, and amino acids.
Vitamins are also involved in the synthesis of neurotransmitters necessary for the nervous system’s functions.
Fatty acids are essential compounds of the membrane of cells, including neurons.
The omega 3 fatty acid, Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) is the principal constituent of the plasma membrane of neurons found in the brain and cerebral cortex.
- Plant-Based Antioxidants
Plant-Based Antioxidants such as flavones, polyphenols, flavonoids, phytoestrogens, and catechins, prevent oxidative stress damage to neurons that causes their death. They perform this action by neutralizing free radicals.
3- Brain Activity
Activities such as puzzles, crosswords, painting, drawing, video games, and problem-solving games, stimulate brain function by increasing the connectivity of the neurons’ connectivity (plasticity).
4- Preventing Brain Injury
Individuals that survive a moderate to severe traumatic injury are more likely to experience long-lasting cognitive deficits . The seriousness of the cognitive deficits depends on the severity of the injury, the location of the lesion, and the cause of the injury.
5- Social Interactions
Meaningful social interaction through family, friends and social support can significantly reduce the risk of diseases such as neurodegenerative diseases (e.g., dementia), cardiovascular diseases, strokes, respiratory diseases, and other pathologies  .
6- Stopping or Limiting Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol is a stimulator of the central nervous system through the induction of the release of the neurotransmitter, dopamine, which results in a feeling of pleasure.
However, excessive consumption of alcohol (quantity and duration) was associated with brain damage and neurocognitive deficits that significantly affect learning, and intellectual development .
7- Preventing Hyperglycaemia
An excessive level of glucose in the blood (Hyperglycaemia) can cause brain injuries through damaging brain blood vessels which prevent the brain from obtaining the necessary nutrients (Ischemia).
A prolonged state of hyperglycemia can also cause vascular cognitive impairment, also known as vascular dementia .
8- Preventing Hypertension
Hypertension or a high level of blood pressure can significantly affect the function of blood vessels which limits nutrients supply to the brain and causes white matter lesions, and therefore, cognitive deficit.
Hypertension can also cause dementia, and other diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, stroke, and kidney disease .
9- Reducing Cholesterol level
Cholesterol is an essential component of the membrane of cells, including neurons, and is necessary for the production of steroid hormones and the acids of the bile.
However, excessive levels of cholesterol in the body can cause atherosclerosis (narrowing of the blood vessels), and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) .
10- Promoting Emotional Well-Being
Stress and anxiety can develop into depression. This transition affects brain function through alterations in the transmission of information that is managed by the brain neurotransmitters .
11- Keeping Out of Drug Consumption
Recreational use of brain stimulants such as psychomotor stimulants can result in neurotoxicity that significantly damages the brain neurons due to the excessive activation of neurotransmitters in the brain (Excitotoxicity).
To improve the function of the brain, changes in lifestyle are necessary. Consuming healthy foods that contain enough glucose, amino acids, minerals, fatty acids, and antioxidants, provides the brain with the necessary nutrients for its function.
A balanced diet that has the right amount of cholesterol can also promote brain function without causing chronic diseases that can significantly reduce longevity.
In addition to its euphoric effect, exercising helps blood flow and delivery of nutrients to the brain, reducing stress, anxiety, depression, and hypertension.