As we begin a new decade I thought it would be helpful for me to share some ideas with you about brain health and optimization. I always thought that if I avoided risky behaviors and did not have injuries or illnesses that affected the brain I would be alright, but it turns out there is much more to it than that. It’s the combination of eating the right food and sleep health that make the difference in brain health for entrepreneurs.
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5 Superfoods Your Brain Needs to Stay Young
Did you know that cognitive decline can begin as early as your late 20s and early 30s? A University of Virginia study published in 2009 discovered “top performances in some of the tests were accomplished at the age of 22. A notable decline in certain measures of abstract reasoning, brain speed and in puzzle-solving became apparent at 27.”
Considering the life expectancy age in the U.S. is 78.69, that’s a lot of years to live with decreased brain function. But there’s good news here: We can improve our brain’s function based on our life choices. We can actually control how smart we become!
Nutrition is the very basic foundation of all health, including brain health, so making wise choices in what foods to eat not only helps your body stay healthy and trim but also helps improve your brain function. Do you suffer from brain fog and have a hard time concentrating at work? Combat those problems by looking at the foods you eat every day.
Add these Superfoods to Your Diet
Simply adding these superfoods while still relying on packaged foods for your meals won’t achieve maximum results but if you’re one who needs to make one change at a time so as not to get overwhelmed, then start here.
- Dark leafy greens. Kale, spinach, and Swiss chard all contain vitamin K, lutein, folate and beta-carotene which combat inflammation, improve cognitive function, and reduce neurodegeneration. If you’re not a fan of salads, adopt the habit of drinking a green smoothie daily for breakfast.
- Berries. Blueberries especially contain antioxidants and phytochemicals which have been shown to improve cognitive function. When you’re craving something sweet, reach for some blueberries instead of sugar-filled snacks or add a serving of blueberries to sweeten your green smoothie.
- Avocado. Your brain needs healthy fats to function and avocados are filled with monounsaturated fats. Avocados are also important to your overall health because they help balance your LDL/HDL cholesterol ratio, which in turn increases the blood flow to your brain and reduces the risk of stroke. Add some avocado to your salads or make homemade guacamole.
- Cauliflower and Broccoli. Both are filled with choline, which helps prevent memory loss and cognitive decline as we age. Check out Pinterest for simple yet tasty ways to prepare cauliflower and broccoli or add some raw pieces to your salads.
- Turmeric. A yellow spice often used in Indian foods, turmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory which can also help improve memory. Its main compound, curcumin, is thought to increase the presence of BDNF, a growth hormone in the brain. Alzheimer’s disease and other brain disorders are linked to decreased levels of this hormone. Add turmeric to your foods or take a supplement daily. This applies to everyone, but my focus is on brain health for entrepreneurs.
Ditch the Packaged Foods
As you work your way through trying these superfoods, also work on avoiding any foods that come in a package. It definitely takes a shift in mindset but everything you need to make simple, healthy meals is found in the outer aisles of the supermarket. The one exception is frozen fruits and veggies. These are healthy options provided there’s no added sugar. Your body doesn’t know how to properly digest and eliminate these packaged chemicals and preservatives so why run the risk of building up this toxic load which might affect your brain?
Sleep Your Way to a Healthy Brain
Our brains are the miracle powerhouses of our bodies. This extremely complex organ controls all our bodily functions so, for obvious reasons, we should do everything in our power to keep our brains functioning healthfully.
Don’t be discouraged by this daunting task. One simple way to keep your brain healthy is to get enough sleep. In today’s busy world, too often we stay up late to finish work, finish housework, or to finally relax with our spouse. But then the vicious cycle starts again too early in the morning when we awaken to get ready for work, to feed the family, or simply to get a jump start on that work deadline that’s hovering over our head.
Scientific Proof Your Brain Needs More Sleep
Without sleep your brain can’t function properly. Your reflexes are slower, you’ll have difficulty focusing on tasks, and you’ll have difficulty learning new things. Sleep is also extremely important to your brain’s neurons and their ability to communicate with each other.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke says, “Research shows that a chronic lack of sleep, or getting poor quality sleep, increases the risk of disorders including high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, and obesity.” As we know from news reports, cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of adults and Type 2 diabetes along with obesity have reached epidemic proportions. Therefore, it makes common sense to do anything possible to avoid these catastrophic health issues.
5 Ways to Improve Your Sleep and Your Brain Function
You are in complete control of how much sleep you get each night and the quality of that sleep. Here are some tips for making the most of this important quiet time:
- Unplug from electronics one hour before bed. The blue light that reflects off the mobile phone or television screen reduces the amount of melatonin produced in the brain, which is necessary for a good night’s sleep.
- Meditate. Coupled with unplugging from technology, meditation is a peaceful way to calm down after a long, stressful day.
- Set an earlier bedtime. Instead of falling asleep on the couch watching your favorite television show, set the DVR and go to bed earlier. Adults need a solid 7-9 hours of sleep each night for optimal performance the next day. I have found that going to bed by nine each evening suits me about 90% of the time when I don’t have a late night commitment.
- Increase your light exposure during daytime hours. Your circadian rhythm is the biological time clock that tells the body it’s daytime or nighttime. Increasing your light exposure not only increases your daytime energy but it prepares your body for a good night’s sleep. Get outside when the sun is out, sit by a window, or change your lightbulbs from Soft White to Daytime White to add brightness to your day.
- Turn your bedroom into a peaceful oasis. To improve your sleep quality, eliminate clutter (aka laundry and paper piles), add some room darkening shades or curtains, and charge your electronics elsewhere. Clutter causes stress in our brains, which is the last thing you want when it’s time for sleeping.
Improving your sleep habits will naturally improve your brain function. A healthy, well-rested brain also plays a role in making healthy eating choices and having the energy to exercise. Feeling more awake in the morning also sets a positive tone for the work day. Even though these strategies are universal, here I am applying them to brain health for entrepreneurs.
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I’m bestselling author, marketing strategist, and entrepreneur Connie Ragen Green and I would love to connect further with you to help you to achieve your goals. If you are interested in learning how to optimize the syndication of your content, please take a look at my popular Syndication Optimization training course and consider coming aboard to increase your visibility, credibility, and profitability.