Most people don’t think about taking care of their brain health until they reach a certain age, usually around the time the AARP journal begins arriving by mail. But according to brain health specialist Dr. Mark Milstein, we should start thinking about the health of our brain long before we reach the golden years.
His years of research into how lifestyle changes affect long-term brain health have revealed that things like our diet, exercise, and sleep habits have major effects on the brain, meaning that the things we do now on a daily basis affect brain health in the future. Fortunately, Milstein’s research also found that simple changes in these areas of our lives can dramatically improve brain health in the long run.
In an exclusive interview with Health Digest, Dr. Milstein explained the links between diet, exercise, sleep, and brain health, and also revealed the daily habits that will keep your brain looking its best for decades to come.
Movement and eating to improve brain health
Dr. Mark Milstein emphasized that one of the most important factors in long-term brain health is actually long-term heart health. He explained that blood is the brain’s primary fuel, and healthy blood flow to the brain depends on the heart – so eating a heart-healthy diet and improving cardiovascular health through exercise is as essential for the brain as it is for the heart. He added that diet and exercise also play a major role in regulating our sleep cycles, and better sleep leads to a better mind.
Fortunately, you don’t have to make huge changes to make a huge impact. Dr. Milstein explained that simply adding some omega-3-rich foods to your diet and going for a daily walk can make a big difference.
“Studies show that walking for 30 minutes a day reduces the risk of developing dementia by about 60%,” he said. “You don’t have to walk at the same time. If you want to give your walking a little boost, consider walking at a faster pace for part of your walk.”
Better sleep for a better mind
Although diet and exercise are essential to brain health, sleep may be the most important factor in keeping your brain at its best. Dr. Mark Milstein explained that many critical biological processes occur during sleep, and when we don’t get enough sleep, these processes don’t happen the way they need to.
“Sleep is when we remove toxins and waste products that build up in our brains,” he revealed. “This process basically keeps your brain clean. Your brain is like your apartment or your house; if it’s chaotic, it’s hard to be productive. The same thing happens in the brain. If we don’t get enough quality sleep, we build up toxins and waste that can It damages the brain in the short and long term.”
He added that diet, exercise and sleep are all closely related to each other, so changes to your diet and exercise regimen go a long way toward improving your sleep as well. The bottom line, Dr. Milstein stressed, is to “make changes now,” because brain health begins to deteriorate long before neurological symptoms appear – so make small changes that build up over time.
For more information on improving your brain health, check out Dr. Milstein’s new book“The Age-Proof Brain: New Strategies to Improve Memory, Protect Immunity and Fight of Dementia,” Available October 25.
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