I’m a neurologist – these are the six things I do every day to keep my mind sharp
- A Kentucky-based neurologist shared six things he does to keep his mind sharp
- Dr Robert Friedland suggests meditation and flossing, among other tips
- READ MORE: 40 simple lifestyle tips to keep your brain healthy
Dr Robert Friedland, neurologist at the University of Louisville, said that boosting cognitive health is about respecting ‘the importance of your body’
A neurologist has revealed the six things he does every day to keep his mind sharp.
As cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s disease surge in the United States, Dr Robert Friedland said strengthening your brain is more important than ever.
The neurologist – from the University of Louisville – told DailyMail.com: ‘Respect the importance of your body.’
‘Instead of turning on the TV or opening up the newspaper, starting the day with meditation could boost mental health.’
Dr Friedland – who is also the author of Unaging: The four factors that impact how you age – said that evidence is beginning to show that taking care of your oral hygiene is equally important when it comes to warding off cognitive decline.
Here is what Dr Friedland does every day to keep his mind in top condition:
When it comes to eating for brain health, plant-based fiber is key, Dr Friedland said.
This is because fiber, which the National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates 95 percent of Americans don’t get enough of, has been shown to reduce inflammation in the brain.
Inflammation, he said, is a direct cause of cognitive decline and conditions such as dementia.
Dr Friedland suggests opting for plant-based, fiber-rich foods, such as spinach, okra, carrots, avocado, oats, and broccoli
Several plant-based foods are packed with fiber, including avocado, oats, broccoli, artichoke, and lentils.
In addition to avoiding processed foods, Dr Friedland suggests steering clear of beef, pork, and chicken.
‘Chicken has no fiber, so when you’re eating chicken, you’re eating something which has no value for your microbiota, or your gut bacteria,’ he said.
‘It would be better if the space on your plate could be occupied with something that’s actually good for you.’
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Instead of chicken, he suggests swapping it for vegetables like spinach, okra, or carrots.
If you still want meat, opt for fatty fish, such as salmon.
Keep your friends in mind
To keep his brain sharp, Dr Friedland makes time for social activities like hiking, tennis, and going for walks with friends.
‘It’s good for the brain to be involved in social and meaningful activities,’ he said.
Studies upon studies have shown that that social isolation and loneliness are among the highest risk factors for poor cognition in older adults.
Depression from loneliness could be a precursor to this decline.
Socializing can stimulate attention and memory, and help to strengthen neural networks. You may just be laughing and talking, but your brain is hard at work. This increase in mental activity pays off over time.
Additionally, a 2021 study suggested that social support improved cognitive resilience, or the ability to overcome setbacks and stress.
When you schedule plans with friends, take them outside. It could boost your brain health.
Dr Friedland links the benefits to how our ancestors evolved hundreds of thousands of years ago. ‘They were living in a natural environment. Our genes have been selected because they help us to live in that environment,’ he said.
A 2015 study, for example, suggests this ancestral link makes us naturally able to connect with nature.
‘That exposure to the natural world also helps to keep your mind safe.’
A study published in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science found that spending time in more natural environments improved memory, cognitive flexibility, and attention, while urban environments were linked to lower attention span.
Don’t forget to floss
While brushing and flossing is key for gum health, research shows it can also stave off Alzheimer’s disease
It’s clear that brushing and flossing helps stave away cavities and prevent gum disease, but it can also improve cognitive function.
A 2021 study published in the Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine suggested that flossing regularly could prevent dementia. The researchers said that each missing tooth a participant had increased their risk of developing a cognitive condition.
Researchers in Japan also found that tooth loss and gum disease were linked to shrinking in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory and Alzheimer’s disease.
‘Oral health is important for the brain,’ Dr Friedland said. ‘There are a lot of bacteria in the mouth, and you can’t possibly remove them all, but you can help to control them by brushing and flossing every day.’
Get eight hours of sleep
Dr Friedland recommends getting eight hours of sleep every night to keep your brain sharp.
‘Sleep is a critical part of brain health,’ he said.
This is because sleep helps the brain form memories and process new information.
When you’re sleep deprived, the protein beta-amyloid builds up in the neurons.
Recent research suggests that when they accumulate, they impair brain function and can cause Alzheimer’s disease, according to the National Institutes of Health.
One small 2018 study from the NIH suggested that losing just one night of sleep led to an increase in these proteins.
Sleep also boosts the brain’s plasticity, which is its ability to adapt to new experiences and situations. Greater plasticity can lead to better cognitive function with age.
Make time for meditation
‘I meditate every day, and I find that very important to maintain my peace of mind,’ Dr Friedland said.
‘Meditation is an opportunity every day to allow your mind to settle down to some degree.’
He practices mindfulness meditation- bringing your attention to the present moment- for 30 minutes every day. While Dr Friedland prefers morning, he’s open to it whenever he has time.
One systematic review found that meditation is a feasible practice for older adults and could offset age-related cognitive decline.
‘I do think that it’s clear, time spent in meditation is more valuable than in reading the newspaper or watching television,’ Dr Friedland said.
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