10 Brain Healthy Habits to Add to the New Year
Ready to make 2024 a year of positive transformations by adopting habits that not only improve your daily life but also contribute to the health of your brain? As the calendar resets, it's an ideal moment to evaluate our routines and lifestyle habits, identifying areas for improvement, particularly in terms of brain health. With motivation running high, implementing small changes now can gradually integrate into our daily routines, providing sustained support and protection for our brain health and function throughout the year. Explore these 10 achievable brain-healthy habits to add to your list and your commitment to lifelong brain health.
10 Brain Healthy Habits to Add to the New Year
1. Manage Your Metabolic Health
Research consistently shows that managing metabolic factors plays a pivotal role in supporting cognitive function. Conditions like type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance, which stem from poor metabolic health, can have profound effects on the brain if left unaddressed. As the body's metabolic processes influence energy utilization, blood flow, and inflammation, prioritizing metabolic well-being becomes a proactive step in preventing accelerated cognitive decline.1 Staying hydrated, getting regular exercise, and prioritizing your sleep are all great starting points to help improve and manage your metabolic health.
2. Participate in More Dual Tasking Activities to Build Cognitive Reserve
Engaging in dual-task activities involves simultaneously performing two actions, and it serves as an enjoyable and effective strategy to enhance cognitive reserve and improve both cognitive functions and physical conditions, particularly as we age.2 Activities like walking and talking or cooking and singing not only add a playful element to your routines but also stimulate different parts of the brain, fostering mental agility and coordination. By incorporating dual-tasking into your daily life, you can contribute to maintaining cognitive flexibility. Next time you're taking a stroll around the neighborhood, invite or call a friend and practice some dual-tasking.
3. Find a Form of Exercise You Enjoy and Stick to it
The profound effects of exercise on brain health include reducing inflammation, improving blood flow, lowering stress hormones, and even increasing brain volume. Numerous studies highlight that regular exercise, whether through walking, running, swimming, or cycling, can significantly enhance memory function in adults.3 Embarking on an exercise routine that you genuinely enjoy and sticking to it consistently is often the most challenging part of maintaining overall fitness. To explore various options, consider trying different fitness classes with friends, hiring a trainer, or exploring free guidance videos on platforms like YouTube. Aim for 30 minutes 5 days a week, and also give your body time to rest.
4. Cut Back on Ultra-Processed Foods and Replace with Whole Options
Ultra-processed foods include sugary cereals, packaged snacks like chips and cookies, fast food items such as burgers and fries, and sweetened beverages like sodas. Often characterized by their significant alteration from their original form and nutrient-stripped composition, they offer minimal nutritional value. Consuming these foods has been associated with a faster cognitive decline and harm to brain health.4 While the convenience of fast food is tempting, it's crucial to limit its intake. Incorporating fruits and vegetables into every meal, reserving dining out for special occasions, and utilizing cookbooks for healthier home-cooked options are effective strategies to minimize reliance on ultra-processed foods and support your brain health.
5. Transform Your Nighttime Routine for Better Sleep
Quality sleep is indispensable for optimal body and brain function, impacting crucial aspects such as learning, memory, and concentration. Even an hour's difference in sleep duration can influence brain health significantly. Studies have shown that those who obtain six hours or less of sleep faced may face an astounding 30% higher risk of Alzheimer's disease, compared to those who get 7-9 hours.5 It's essential to explore factors contributing to poor sleep, including the sleep environment, relaxation routine, and potential underlying sleep disorders. Prioritize a consistent sleep schedule, abstain from alcohol or caffeine before bedtime, and limit screen time at least 30 minutes before sleep to promote high-quality rest. Visit here to explore our De-stresscember Special Offer focused on sleep.
6. Make Time to Socialize with Friends and Family Regularly
In our hectic lives, we often relegate relationships to the sidelines. Engaging with those around you activates various brain regions, fostering attention and memory. Research suggests that increased social activity correlates with reduced cognitive decline by stimulating attention and memory.6 Prioritize daily connections with family or friends, whether through a brief phone call, inviting someone for coffee, or sharing a quick lunch, to support your brain health amid busy schedules.
7. Manage Your Stress with Breathing Exercises and Meditation
Daily stress impacts everyone, and its unmanaged effects can detrimentally affect the body and brain. Numerous studies highlight the adverse impact of chronic stress on the memory of older adults.7 To combat stress, incorporating quick and simple strategies like meditation and breathing exercises into your routine can make a substantial difference. Slow-breathing exercises, involving deliberate deep inhalations and exhalations at a reduced respiratory rate (typically 6 to 10 breaths per minute), have shown significant stress reduction benefits.8 Practical ways to explore these techniques include guided yoga classes or using meditation apps like Headspace, providing accessible stress management tools anytime, anywhere.
8. Drink More Water and Tea
Staying hydrated is crucial for brain health and function, as the human brain is primarily composed of 75% water. Studies have found that drinking water enhances cognitive performance and memory.9 When considering alternate brain-boosting beverages, green tea stands out as another preferred option. Packed with L-theanine and catechins, green tea has been scientifically linked to reduced anxiety, increased Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), and improved memory.10 So, while prioritizing water intake for overall brain health, incorporating green tea into your routine adds an extra layer of cognitive benefits, making it a refreshing and brain-healthy choice.
9. Limit the Alcohol You Consume
While alcohol may be enjoyed for celebrations or relaxation, the truth is that even moderate consumption has been linked to accelerated loss of brain cells and an increase in amyloid plaque buildup, a significant marker of Alzheimer's disease, according to a recent study.11 Abstaining from alcohol, especially in large amounts, is crucial for preserving your brain health as you age. Instead of traditional cocktails, consider embracing mocktails – delightful, alcohol-free alternatives that let you celebrate without compromising your cognitive well-being.
10. Add in a Brain Supporting Supplements
Many average Americans miss out on crucial brain-protective nutrients, often due to factors like nutrient-poor soils and changing seasons affecting the nutritional value of fruits and vegetables. These essential nutrients, found in diets like the Mediterranean and MIND diets, play a key role in preserving brain health as we age. From commonly deficient ones like magnesium, omega-3s, and vitamin D to those challenging to get in adequate amounts without a perfect diet, such as lutein and zeaxanthin, quercetin, or flavonols, maintaining optimal brain nutrition can be challenging. At NeuroReserve, we're dedicated to brain health through nutritional products. Recognizing the difficulty in meeting daily nutrient needs, especially in our fast-paced lives, our supplement RELEVATE can help bridge these nutritional gaps. Packed with 17 well-researched nutrients in dosages inspired by brain-healthy diets, RELEVATE is backed by evidence from long-term studies, showing a 50% reduced risk of Alzheimer's.12 Plus, get $10 off your first order when you subscribe with code NEWBRAIN. With a subscription, you'll receive a fresh supply regularly, every month. This means you can stay effortlessly on track, making consistent progress on your path to better brain health in 2024. Learn more about RELEVATE by visiting here.
Remember, setting goals is a personal journey, and the path to a brain-healthy year is unique for each of us. By identifying areas where progress can be made, you can choose habits that are not just achievable but sustainable. Whether big or small, every step forward is a gift to your brain. As you navigate through the list above, know that your brain will appreciate every positive change you embrace. Here's to a year filled with growth, brain health, and an overall healthier and happier you!
- van den Berg, E., Biessels, G. J., de Craen, A. J. M., Gussekloo, J., & Westendorp, R. G. J. (2007). The metabolic syndrome is associated with decelerated cognitive decline in the oldest old. Neurology, 69(10), 979–985. https://doi.org/10.1212/01.WNL.0000271381.30143.75
- Jardim, Naina Yuki Vieira et al. “Dual-Task Exercise to Improve Cognition and Functional Capacity of Healthy Older Adults.” Frontiers in aging neuroscience vol. 13 589299. 16 Feb. 2021, doi:10.3389/fnagi.2021.589299
- Loprinzi, P. D., Frith, E., Edwards, M. K., Sng, E., and Ashpole, N., The Effects of Exercise on Memory Function Among Young to Middle-Aged Adults: Systematic Review and Recommendations for Future Research. Am. J. Heal. Promot., 2018, 32, 691–704.
- Gomes Gonçalves, Natalia et al. “Association Between Consumption of Ultraprocessed Foods and Cognitive Decline.” JAMA neurology vol. 80,2 (2023): 142-150. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2022.4397
- Sabia, S., Fayosse, A., Dumurgier, J. et al. Association of sleep duration in middle and old age with incidence of dementia. Nat Commun 12, 2289 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-22354-2
- James, B. D., Wilson, R. S., Barnes, L. L., and Bennett, D. A., Late-Life Social Activity and Cognitive Decline in Old Age. J Int Neuropsychol Soc., 2011, 711–716.
- Peavy, G. M., Ph, D., Salmon, D. P., et al., Effects of chronic stress on memory decline in cognitively normal and mildly impaired older adults. Am. J. Psychiatry, 2009, 166, 1384–1391.
- Fincham, G.W., Strauss, C., Montero-Marin, J. et al. Effect of breathwork on stress and mental health: A meta-analysis of randomised-controlled trials. Sci Rep 13, 432 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-27247-y
- Edmonds, C. J., Beeley, J., Rizzo, I., Booth, P., and Gardner, M., Drinking Water Enhances Cognitive Performance: Positive Effects on Working Memory But Not Long-Term Memory. J. Cogn. Enhanc., 2022, 6, 67–73.
- Mancini, Edele et al. “Green tea effects on cognition, mood and human brain function: A systematic review.” Phytomedicine : international journal of phytotherapy and phytopharmacology vol. 34 (2017): 26-37. doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2017.07.008
- Day, S. M., Gironda, S. C., Clarke, C. W., Snipes, J. A., Nicol, N. I., Kamran, H., Vaughn, W., Weiner, J. L., & Macauley, S. L. (2023). Ethanol exposure alters Alzheimer’s-related pathology, behavior, and metabolism in APP/PS1 mice. Neurobiology of Disease, 177, 105967. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.NBD.2022.105967
- Morris, M. C., Tangney, C. C., Wang, Y., et al., MIND diet associated with reduced incidence of Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer’s and Dement., 2015, 11, 1007–1014.