Scroll down or follow these links to discover many of the approaches we've found most useful, especially when it comes to Brain Health and Healthy Aging:
Overall Brain Health
Let me start with what one of my neurologist’s referred to as “The Basics” when I asked her about where I should turn in my search of what may be neuro-protective.
Her full comment was “The basics are called that for a reason—they include things like Exercise, Diet, Stress Reduction and Sleep.”
If you want an overview on some of the basics, all three of these articles are great:
Exercise is also now generally believed to be neuro-protective, though the exact types, levels and amounts that are optimal is not yet known.
As this study reports succinctly: “Exercise builds brain health”, and then it goes on to explore how.
My research has led me to believe that the optimum amount of exercise may be about an hour a day, 7 hours a week, with about 1/3 of that time being strenuous, including things like high-intensity interval training combined with some weight training. Beyond that, just generally moving around is good--for me that is doing lots of walking, but as always, your mileage may vary!
As we all know, diet is quite controversial. Nutritional science is one of those areas that continues to evolve rapidly, seeming to contradict itself along the way, particularly around fats (good and bad); carbs (hi and low) and proteins (plant and animal).
And while the answers on all of the above are likely to be somewhat different for different people, there are some areas of common ground, such as:
> Eat lots and lots of vegetables
> Avoid sugar—the Standard American Diet is called SAD for a reason, and part of it is that the average American eats 66 lbs of refined sugar a year! Don’t be that person!
That is an experiment with our bodies and our brains that I choose not to participate in. I have a sweet tooth, but I have it contained to a little dark chocolate, maybe some dates, or berries, a little honey. And I try to keep it at that.
Sleep can be challenging for many of us, but is worth persevering to get right, as it may play a key role in protecting our brains.
The basics here include good “sleep hygiene”, like a cool, dark comfortable space and a regular bedtime. One key for me was discontinuing electronic devices for an hour or so before sleep, and allowing myself to wake up naturally without an alarm, if your work and life allow for that.
“The Neuroprotective Aspects of Sleep” are described in part here. Which includes the conclusion: “with the discovery of the relationship between sleep and the brain’s health; one can conclude that sleeping clears the build-up of toxic waste products.”
Deep Sleep, and the relatively newly discovered glymphatic system may be particularly important here, as seen in this piece about Deep sleep and Tau protein build up.
There is currently an explosion of great research going on related to sleep. I have gotten great value out of reading Dr. Matthew Walker’s book Why We Sleep and continue to follow the work coming out of his lab in Berkeley.
Fasting & Time Restricted Eating
Over the course of my research, I have come to believe that when we eat may be just as important as what we eat.
The Paleo approach that posits that we may have evolved genetically to benefit from certain foods and lifestyles has always made sense to me (at least up to a point).
Where it makes the most sense to me is that our bodies evolved to move around a lot, and to live through periods with very limited calories. Just the opposite of the typical western lifestyle today!
Fasting has proven the test of time (why else would it be part of so many religions and cultures!) And now, it’s increasingly passing the test of science as well, including being researched for its positive effects on the brain.