The World Health Organization redefined ‘health’ in 1964 as beyond the mere absence of disease. It included other facets of the human condition, such as physical, social, and mental well-being. With this new definition, being healthy means that one should maintain a physically fit body, sufficient social skills, and having and living with a healthy brain. But what does it mean to live with a healthy brain? You’ll need to understand what cognitive health is first.
What Is Cognitive Health?
Cognitive health is one aspect of brain health that refers to a person’s ability to think, learn, and remember clearly. It’s an essential component that allows us to perform everyday activities. A healthy mind can mean that a person is capable of
- giving attention,
- managing and carrying out complex movements,
- linguistic comprehension and expression,
- visual-spatial stimuli processing,
- gaining new knowledge,
- remembering events from the past,
- interpersonal perspective and evaluation, and
- emotional control.
Why Is Cognitive Health Important?
It’s essential to consider cognitive health as also one of the topmost priorities. Taking care of cognitive health is something everyone needs. A healthy mind allows you to carry out basic and complex activities in life. It can significantly affect your quality of life, and an unhealthy cognitive state can leave many having difficulty performing daily tasks.
As people age, their neuroplasticity or being in the best shape that it can function decreases, causing problems later in life. These problems can range from simple forgetfulness and confusion to more significant issues such as difficulty performing day-to-day responsibilities and brain diseases later in life like Alzheimer’s.
Fortunately, wholistic research shows that supplements can help increase focus and productivity, enhance memory, and improve one’s mood. As a result, people have different options to keep their minds healthy. Aside from that, here are nine simple ways that can help improve one’s cognitive health:
1. Maintain Your Mental Activity
Keeping the brain active increases its vitality. Constantly practicing your brain by thinking, learning, and remembering things allows it to be busy, much like what physical exercise does to the body.
Essential cognitive functions decrease at 20 because the human brain naturally shrinks over time and loses neurons. However, an active mind allows you to retain your brain cells and may even produce new brain cells. Some great brain exercises include puzzles, cards, vocabulary building, dancing, learning and teaching a new skill and listening to music.
When you activate your neurons constantly, you also increase blood flow to you our brain. This increased blood flow allows you to function better, make better judgments, and think and recall things better. The brain is an organ, much like any organ in the human body. Continuously making it useful allows it to function better throughout life.
2. Take Care of Your Physical Health
Studies have proven that exercise improves people’s cognitive health, as physical activities can help protect the brain from neurodegeneration. In addition, it enhances a person’s executive functioning, as well as a person’s brain structure.
Exercise also allows your body to release endorphins, which can help relieve pain, reduce stress and improve mood. Endorphins also act as sedatives, allowing you to sleep better. Exercising also lowers the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and symptoms of depression, which can improve one’s cognitive health.
3. Keep A Healthy Diet
Regarding diet, you should aim for low glycaemic foods as these can improve attention, memory, and functional capacity. These include fruits and vegetables, raw carrots, chickpeas, lentils, and bran breakfast cereals. A healthy, well-balanced diet can help a person think better and, more precisely, improve one’s concentration and attention span.
Omega 3 fatty acids are also beneficial for your brain, which assists in building healthy brain and nerve cells. These healthy fats are also vital for a person’s learning and memory and slow cognitive health degeneration. You can find omega 3 in fish, fish oils, flax seeds, and walnuts. A healthy diet can directly influence one’s cognitive functions and should be considered when keeping your brain healthy.
4. Get Enough Sleep
Research shows that sleep deprivation can cause degeneration and loss of brain cells. This is because sleeping lets the brain rest and allows it to restore neurons and neurotransmitters. At the same time, rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is responsible for the brain’s processing of emotional information, as it works to evaluate one’s thoughts and memories.
Experts generally advise adults must get 7–9 hours of sleep per night for the brain to function efficiently for the rest of the day. This allows the brain to get the rest it needs, as it’s one of the busiest organs in the human body, working 24/7 every day.
5. Manage Your Stress
Exposure to stressful conditions can be a substantial factor for cognitive health. High-stress levels can impair memory, attention, cognitive flexibility, and impulse control. Chronic stress can also shrink a person’s prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for learning and remembering. Simultaneously, stress increases the amygdala, making the brain more sensitive to stressful stimuli. Though encountering stressful situations is inevitable, you can manage it by taking breaks, unwinding, and avoiding substances that can further trigger stressors.
6. Take Supplements For Enhanced Cognition
Many consider nootropics as supplements, drugs, and other substances in modern medicine. Nootropics may improve a person’s cognitive and executive functions, keep attention, retain memory, increase creativity, or heighten a person’s motivation. These benefits are why some health professionals prescribe nootropics for healthy individuals.
On the contrary, nootropics are vasodilators. They can dilate small arteries and veins in the brain, allowing more blood to circulate and providing the needed nutrients. This effect also increases oxygen flow to the person’s brain, making them function better.
Fortunately, you can buy different nootropics in the market nowadays. However, you must be careful in selecting which supplement you would like to take. Be aware of fake supplements with false claims; you should read the information, the side effects first, and the components of the nootropic you are taking. If you are interested in this drug but not sure which is the best for you, consult your doctor and ask for recommendations.
7. Drink More Water
An adult human body is comprised of 60% water. Every cell in your body, including your brain, relies on water to perform specific functions. Therefore, water can help the body and the brain cells perform better. In addition, water can clear toxins that may impair brain function and wash out waste products in the body for more efficient functioning.
Also, water allows the body to carry the essential nutrients the brain needs. Research studies show that having enough water in our system will enable us to make faster and better decisions, making improved cognitive judgments. Moreover, being dehydrated for a long time can cause short-term memory loss and shrink brain cells’ size and mass. Mental clarity is also directly affected by the body’s hydration. A lack of water in the body can contribute to causing ‘brain fog’ or misperception, forgetfulness, and a lack of focus and mental clarity.
8. Allow Yourself to Have Social Interaction
Humans are a social species. It’s normal and healthy for people to find other humans to communicate with, and it’s also known to train the brain. Social contact improves a person’s memory formation and prevents the brain from neurodegeneration.
Sharing and bonding with other people also lighten your mood and allow you to be happier. Furthermore, it promotes safety, belonging, and security. The new normal that the COVID-19 pandemic brought might be challenging for people for the past two years of problematic social contact due. Still, you must reach out to your close friends, family, and peers to keep social connections and improve your overall cognitive functions.
9. Reduce Factors That Can Pose a Risk To Cognitive Health
Every aspect of human life, including genetics, environment, and way of living, can influence and impact cognitive health. Some might be beneficial, and others might cause problems that can adversely affect mental health.
Technically, genetics refers to factors inherited from your parents and the risks they may have to cognition, so you cannot control the risks. You can only mitigate possibilities of brain degeneration, and you must avoid instances that can cause problems to your brain. These include physical and mental health problems, improper medication, lack of physical activity, poor eating habits, consuming cigarettes and alcohol, bad sleeping habits, and social isolation. As much as you can, you should try to keep your environment and lifestyle as healthy as possible.
Cognitive health should be one of your priorities, as it allows you to live a healthy life. There are many ways to improve your mental health, usually simple. Remember that the brain controls everything in life, so you must pay attention and keep it healthy to do other daily activities.
Some ways include maintaining mental activity, taking care of your body, having a nutritious diet, sleep, stress management, taking supplements, drinking enough water, and having social interactions. At the same time, you should reduce risks that can cause harm to your brain health. These basic steps can be incredibly beneficial in keeping a healthy mind and avoiding possible neurological diseases in the future.