According to neuroscientist Kristen Willeumier, Ph.D., there are some underrated, yet crucial factors that can help or hurt your brain. Optimize them all and your chances for aging well and thinking well will go up 10x.
Drink more water
“Among the first things I recommend is to make sure you are drinking enough water,” Willeumier says. Now, the exact amount differs for everyone but drinking half your bodyweight number in ounces is a great starting point. You might need more depending on what your diet is like, your environment, and other factors.
“Your brain contains 75% water,” Willeumier says. “It is going to help your blood pressure, flush out waste from your cells, keep your cells healthy,” all of which are vital functions for brain health. In fact, she says that even a 1 to 2% lower intake of water can lead to feeling brain fog and fatigue.
2. Get better blood flow
Experts have debated the connection between vascular health and brain health. Blood flow is very important for the brain: “You must keep your brain oxygenated,” says Willeumier, because the brain uses 20% of your body’s total oxygen and blood flow.
To optimize your circulation, Willeumier stresses the importance of diet: “You want to ensure blood sugars are managed because over time blood sugar can damage blood vessels,” she says. “If you have a lot of sugar circulating in your blood, and it is not able to get inside your cells, that will cause problems. Your brain won’t be able to get the fuel it needs”
3. Reading and writing
According to Willeumier, people generally don’t read and write as much as they should—and it is affecting their brain health.
“When you read, your brain forms cognitive maps,” she says. “So more reading will keep your brain healthy.” And she is not talking about reading grocery lists or tweets: “The No. 1 thing I believe people need to do more of is long-form reading,” she says. Meaning, a book you enjoy and read for at least 15 minutes.
Writing by hand is also crucial: When you write, your brain organizes the information better. That’s why many scientists and doctors recommend journaling as a great habit. “Getting back into writing by hand will be very supportive for your brain,” she adds.
There’s a lot you can do to help keep your brain healthy. This list is not at all exhaustive! But, getting more water, balancing your blood sugar, along with reading and writing are some of the most vital and easy factors you should start working on now.
Author: Steven Sinclaire