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8 Tips for a Healthy Brain

There are many proactive measures that we can take to keep our brains healthy and to protect ourselves from brain conditions, such as Alzheimer's. This article highlights some steps that you can take now, to protect your future.

1. Reduce sugar. With Alzheimer’s Disease being renamed Diabetes type-3 due to the link between Alzheimer’s and sugar, reducing refined sugar in all forms (such as sugary drinks, fast and processed foods, pasta, white bread and rice) will benefit not only your brain but your overall health. Choose instead fresh fruit and vegetables and whole grains.

2. Choose foods lower in AGEs such as fruit, vegetables, beans, chickpeas, soy, tofu, lentils, whole grains, milk, eggs and yoghurt. Research now links excessive exposure to AGEs with Alzheimer's disease. For an understanding of AGEs, read my article on the connection between diabetes and Alzheimer’s. The best way to limit your exposure to AGEs is to avoid the foods that are high in AGEs such as most fast and processed foods.

3. Modify your cooking methods. Certain cooking methods increase the AGE content of the food. Avoid chargrilling, frying, grilling, deep-frying, broiling and BBQ. Opt rather for shorter cooking times at lower temperatures, e.g. boiling, steaming and poaching. Adding acidic ingredients whilst cooking such as vinegar or lemon juice can help reduce AGE production. Familiarise yourself the amounts of AGEs in all common foods. This table will provide you with a good guideline.

4. Consider an omega-3 supplement. It is now recommended that a daily supplement containing a high level of omega-3 is an important strategy to protect brain health. Speak to a healthcare practitioner to discuss your personal requirements. Omega-3 fats are found in nuts, seeds and oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and anchovies. Unfortunately, oily fish is also heavily contaminated with environmental toxins such as PCBs and heavy metals such as mercury, known to be particularly damaging to the brain. When considering a supplement, make sure that you choose an oil that has been thoroughly purified, to remove any environmental toxins. Many of the cheap brands have not been purified and may do you more harm than good.

5. Exercise. Exercise increases oxygen and blood flow to the brain, which supports optimal cognitive function as we age.

6. Sleep more, stress less. People who sleep less have higher circulating AGEs. In addition, stress reduction can help reduce AGEs.

7. Increase your intake of extra-virgin olive oil. A recent article in the Science News discusses further research on the effects of extra-virgin olive oil on preserving memory and protecting the brain against Alzheimer’s. It discusses the results of a new study, further confirming earlier studies, showing that the consumption of extra-virgin olive oil protects memory and learning ability and reduces the formation of amyloid-beta plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain – classic markers of Alzheimer’s disease.

8. Challenge your mind. One of the simplest ways of boosting brain function is to keep on learning. This can include activities like travelling, learning to play a musical instrument or speak a foreign language. Both the size and structure of neurons as well as the connections between them, change as you learn.

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