Article by freelance writer Sally Writes
We know that we are living longer than ever, but our aim is to live well; to have a sharp mind, to truly ‘be’ in the present moment, and to hang on to our treasured memories as long as we can. According to data obtained from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, around 3.7 million citizens were aged 65 or over in 2016, with predictions for further growth in numbers of elderly by 2046.
We know that we will be living longer, so it is not surprising that people are making greater efforts than ever before, to boost their mental health and adopt lifestyles that enhance brain function. In this post, we highlight a few natural and holistic methods used to improve brain function.
Omega-3 Fats a Vital Component of the Brain
DHA, an Omega-3 fat, is an essential component of the brain, yet the body itself cannot produce it; it must be obtained from the foods we eat. Sources of Omega-3 include fatty fish such as wild salmon and tuna, liver, and brain.
Omega-3 is vital for brain function because it provides structural support to the cells of the central nervous system. When levels are low, these cells become stiff and inflamed, and cells lose their ability to communicate well.
The Right Balance between Activity and Rest
Extensive studies have shown that exercise has important benefits for cognitive function, particularly in later life. Physical activity raises levels of growth factors like BDNF, which increase resistance to brain injury, improve learning and mental performance, and stimulate the growth and development of nervous tissue in the brain.
Sleep is equally vital; various studies have revealed its importance for concentration, working memory, sustained attention, and reaction times, while long-term sleep deprivation is linked to brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s.
Sleep also ensures the brain enjoys ‘synaptic plasticity’ (which plays an important role in learning and memory).
Nootropics for Better Brain Function
Nootropics, another word for ‘smart supplements’, comprise everything from Vitamin D to caffeine, choline, specific amino acids such as phosphatidylserine, herbs, and even yamabushitake mushrooms.
These supplements and foods essentially ‘sharpen the brain’, each in their own respective way. In a study published in the journal Aging & Mental Health, for instance, gingko biloba was found to provide nearly equal results for Alzheimer’s disease, as the drug donepezil, while in other studies it has been found to improve perceived sleep quality, regulate stress, and improve cognition.
Bacopa Monnieri, used traditionally in Ayurvedic medicine, meanwhile, has been found to improve memory and learning capacity in all age groups, not just the elderly. Fish oil is another popular nootropic, owing to its high Omega-3 content. The full list of supplements and foods is ample, with research showing that each has specific effects on the brain.
Making real improvement to your brain function requires a multifaceted approach in which due importance if given to consuming a healthy diet, exercising regularly and resting well, and adding foods and supplements that have been proven to have powerful benefits for everything from behaviour to cognitive functioning. If you wish to start taking supplements, it is vital to obtain approval from your doctor first, regardless of your age.