8 Easy Things Anyone Can Do To Improve Their Brain Health

Camille Freking, MS Translational Pharmacology and Clinical Research
8 Easy Things Anyone Can Do To Improve Their Brain Health

More and more, we hear the importance of self-care, taking care of our mental health, and keeping our physical health in check, but what about our brain health — the health of arguably our most important organ?

While we might not actively be looking out for our body’s control center, putting the right healthy habits into practice can help boost brain health (often while boosting other important facets of our health, too). 

Here are some easy ways to improve cognitive function and boost brain health. 


1. Regularly Exercise

Staying physically active is a great way to keep your body in great shape, but it’s just as important for your brain. In fact, exercise might be one of the best ways to improve and maintain cognitive function.

It’s been found that exercise can directly improve cognitive health by reducing insulin resistance and inflammation, and stimulating the release of chemicals in the brain that affect how cells multiply. This means regular exercise might help slow down cognitive decline, make new brain cells, and combat some of the general effects of aging.

Exercise also has indirect benefits on the brain — it can help you get in shape, which can be a boost to your self-confidence and, in turn, reduce some feelings of stress. Exercise can also improve your quality of sleep, which can in turn improve your mood and give your brain a chance to rest and reset at night. 

Both resistance training and cardiovascular physical activity can benefit the brain, and it’s fairly easy to incorporate both into your regular routine. Going on a hike, taking a cycling class with a friend, or playing catch with your dog are great ways to get the exercise you need while enjoying some quality time outdoors or with a friend. 


2. Eat Right

A nutritious and balanced diet can have major benefits for both overall health and brain health, especially as you age. 

One diet we personally love here at MOSH? The Mediterranean diet. 

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes whole grains, plant-based foods, fish, and healthy fats like the ones you’ll find in olive oil. The diet resembles those of people who live along the Mediterranean coast and incorporates a lot less red meat and salt than the typical American diet.

Studies have found that people who follow this type of diet are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than people who don’t. It makes sense — the ratios of nutrients and whole foods in a typical Mediterranean diet are conducive to overall health and wellness by heavily supporting the cardiovascular system. 

Eating a healthy diet can also help lower risk factors for dementia and other forms of cognitive decline. A good diet can lower high blood pressure, regulate cholesterol, and help with weight management. 

Foods that can help contribute to a healthy brain include:

  • Blueberries
  • Olive oil
  • Sardines
  • Leafy greens (kale, spinach, basil)
  • Tea and coffee
  • Walnuts

Looking for more about foods that can affect your brain, both good and bad? Check out The MOSH Pit wellness blog for tips on foods that affect brain fog, which types of sugar might be sucking the energy right out of you, what foods to eat before taking a test, and much more!


3. Stay Social

In short, social interaction is good for you — it can lighten your mood, support your mental health, and give you a sense of safety and belonging.

Staying social can happen in person, like going out to dinner with a friend, or it can happen virtually. Using technology to interact with friends or family across the globe through video calls or texts is an easy way to stay connected without needing to be physically near someone to cultivate your relationships and get some good talk time. 

You can even combine the benefits of being social with staying active or eating healthfully — visit a local farmer’s market with a friend or take a HIIT class with a coworker!


4. Get Good Sleep (Regularly)

What you do while awake can benefit your brain health, but what you do while asleep is just as important. Sleep affects how nerve cells (neurons) in the brain communicate and function.

When you sleep, it might seem like your brain and body are on break, but the reality is that they remain active while you catch some ZZZs. Sleep is believed to play a “housekeeping” role while you sleep, removing toxins in the brain that build up while you’re awake. That said, you need to get a good night’s sleep both in terms of quality and quantity.

Indirectly, a good sleep schedule can help regulate digestion, make you feel more recharged throughout the day, and give you a better chance of being in a good mood through the day by keeping that sleep-deprived irritability at bay. 

You should aim for between seven to nine hours of sleep a night to feel the benefits of quality, restful sleep. If you’re not getting enough sleep, try making your environment more conducive to sleep by making sure the room is fairly dark and quiet, the temperature is around 65 degrees, and you’re staying off your electronic devices at least 30-60 minutes before bed. 


5. Stay Mentally Focused and Active

We work out to keep our muscles strong, and while your brain can’t do push-ups, you can do cognitive exercises to stay sharp. Keeping yourself mentally focused and active can help your brain remain in better shape for longer. 

Doing mentally stimulating activities like a crossword puzzle, word search, or sudoku are great ways to fight against age-related cognitive decline. 

While staying mentally stimulated might not offer direct benefits to the brain in the same way as exercising, sleeping well, or eating right, it can still improve your mood and help you learn new material. Ultimately, this is never a bad thing, and you’re never too old to learn something new.


6. Improve Your Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, or hypertension, has been shown to affect your brain just as much as it can affect other aspects of your overall health. It’s been known to damage blood vessels in parts of the brain responsible for cognition and memory, which can increase the risk of developing a neurodegenerative disease.

High blood pressure can also increase your risk of heart disease by decreasing blood and oxygen flow to the heart. Additionally, high blood pressure often occurs alongside other harmful health problems, like obesity or type 2 diabetes.

Some of the best ways to lower your blood pressure are already on this list: eating right and exercising regularly. But you can also combat hypertension by reducing sodium in your diet and limiting alcohol.


7. Avoid (Or At Least Limit) Alcohol and Tobacco

Limiting alcohol can also help improve brain health. Alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways and can mess with the way your brain works. Not only can alcohol affect your cognition in the moment, but prolonged drinking can harm areas of the brain that control balance, memory, and judgment. Tobacco is similar in that it can affect the structural integrity of certain portions of the brain. 

Heavy drinking and smoking can also indirectly affect how your brain functions. Both can lead you towards unhealthy habits overall, increasing your risk of physical illnesses and injury. These can have a major effect on your mental well-being.

So, as you’ve probably heard from more folks than us, it’s best to try and limit your alcohol and tobacco usage if you can. 


8. Practice Self-Care

It’s easy to become overwhelmed by everything life throws your way. Balancing jobs, school, a social life, physical exercise, and daily chores can make it impossible to take time for yourself.

But practicing self-care is one of the most important things to enhance your mental fitness. Easing stress is necessary for long-term brain health because chronic stress can lead to mental and physical health problems.

Self-care means making the time to do things that help you live well and improve your overall well-being. 

Self-care can look different from person-to-person depending on what you find relaxing. For some people, cooking is self-care; for others, it’s exercising or meditating; for some, it might look like watching a goofy TV show or a movie and just letting their mind not think for an hour or two.

Whatever your thing is, take time every day to disconnect from what causes you stress, and decompress. 


In Conclusion

Exercising, eating right, staying mentally focused, and being social are simple changes you can make to your day with everlasting benefits. These, in turn, can help manage your blood pressure and improve your sleep, two additional ways to boost brain health with just a little extra effort and some routine change. 

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, try making one change at a time — even opting for a nutritious protein bar in the morning over your fried eggs and bacon is a simple, easy change you can slowly work into your routine. Then, when you’ve swapped out some of your less-than-ideal food choices, try adding a few short walks into your weekly routine or signing up for a class at the community center. 

Small steps forward are still steps forward, and before you know it, you’ll have a little more pep in your step thanks to the extra support your noggin is getting!



Regular exercise changes the brain to improve memory, thinking skills | Harvard Health

5 tips to keep your brain healthy | Mayo Clinic Health System

Health Benefits of Social Interaction | Mercy Medical Center

Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep | National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Blood Pressure and Your Brain |

Alcohol and the Brain: An Overview | NIH

The Best Temperature for Sleep: Advice & Tips | Sleep Foundation

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