7 Ways to Keep Your Brain Young as You Age
By: Courtney Sperlazza, MPH
June 15, 2018
- Your brain burns through 20% of your body’s total energy
- Not only do you need a lot of mitochondria (your cells’ power generators) in your brain, but your brain releases a lot of damaging free radicals with all of the energy production and use
- Read on to find out ways to max out your brain’s energy production while minimizing damage to your delicate brain cells, to keep your thinker young and sharp
Your brain burns through an immense amount of energy. That’s why you feel it when your power supply is low. Memory problems, brain fog, and searching for words all point to your brain’s need for fuel. Not only that, but using power releases free radicals, which are atoms that in excess cause damage.
The brain does a lot for you, and it’s your job to give it the energy and protection it needs to stay young and efficient. Read on to find out ways to max out your brain’s energy production while minimizing damage to your delicate brain cells, to keep your thinker young and sharp.
RELATED: It’s easy to feed your brain if you know what to have on hand. Instantly download your free shopping guide to brain-happy foods here.
Every breath you take floods your system with oxygen, which mitochondria (the power plants of your cells) use to make energy. The process leaves behind free radicals, the part of oxygen they can’t use. A few are good to get rid of weak cells, but too many cause inflammation and damage to healthy cells.
Right now, as you breathe, you’re flooding your system with oxygen, which your mitochondria (the power plants of your cells) latch onto and use to make fuel. They leave behind free radicals, the part of the oxygen they can’t use.
Brain cells are especially vulnerable to free radicals just because of the sheer volume of energy the brain goes through — 20% of your body’s total energy haul.
The solution is on your plate. All vegetables contain polyphenols that neutralize free radicals and prevent them from wreaking havoc. The brighter the color, the better. Polyphenols also help you make more BDNF (Brain-derived neurotrophic factor), a protein that builds new brain cells.
To be sure you’re getting enough, you can take polyphenol supplements for an extra antioxidant boost.
If you’ve ever tried a low-fat diet and felt sleepy and distracted, it’s because your brain is about 60% fat, 25% of which is cholesterol. Researchers linked low-cholesterol diets to cognitive decline, but doctors still lean toward recommending low-fat diets.
Brain cells send signals to each other along long branches that are covered in a fatty coating called myelin that keeps the electrical signal going where it’s supposed to go. Myelin break down slows electrical communication in your brain.
If you’re eating fatty fish, grass-fed butter and meats and pastured eggs, you’re getting the kinds of fats you need to keep your wiring in order.
Environmental toxins and stressors cause your brain to pump out glutamate (a neurotransmitter). Your brain needs glutamate to function, but too much of it is toxic and starts killing off surrounding brain cells.
Researchers found that a compound called oxaloacetate protected rodents’ brains from glutamate-induced damage. Animal studies also demonstrated that oxaloacetate increases your nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, or NAD, a coenzyme, and that means your cells produce more energy.
A key ingredient of Ketoprime is oxaloacetate. See for yourself if having extra oxaloacetate in your cells make more energy to boost mental and physical endurance, stamina and focus.
PQQ (pyrroloquinoline quinone)
Your body uses pyrroloquinoline quinone, or PQQ, as a powerful antioxidant, protecting your cells (and specifically your mitochondria) from damaging free radicals. It’s about 100 times as powerful as vitamin C and it increases Nrf2, a pathway that increases the antioxidants that your body produces.
PQQ prevents the development of damaging proteins associated with Parkinson’s disease and can stimulate the release of nerve growth factor cells in the brain.
Antioxidants are critical to protect every cell in your body, especially the brain. Because your brain gobbles up 20% of your total energy expenditure, it releases a lot of damaging free radicals in close proximity to areas that you especially don’t want to zap — bundles of delicate neurons.
PQQ is naturally occurring in small quantities in green tea, natto, parsley, and other foods, but you’ll get the most out of supplementing. Co-enzyme Q10 helps your body absorb PQQ, and Unfair Advantage combines the two.
Coffee fruit extract
Research shows that 100 mg of extract of coffee fruit (the red fruit that holds coffee beans) raised bBrain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is a protein your body uses to make new brain cells, by about 140%. Coffee is a key ingredient in the supplement Neuromaster, which gives a brain boost.
Brain training exercises
Just like you can work out your muscles, you can flex your brain cells to make them stronger and faster. Puzzle books, brain teaser toys and logic games all give your brain a trip to the gym.
Figure out how to solve a rubik’s cube. (Don’t spin and spin and give up — there’s a method to it. Look it up online and practice so your brain learns something.) Get together with friends and have a night at an escape game solving riddles and puzzles. Work through reaction time games on your phone while you’re in the dentist’s waiting room. The key is to use your noodle consistently and change it up so you’re always on your toes.
One method that has some science behind it is dual N-back training. Dual N-back is progressive brain training — meaning, it gets more challenging as you go — that improves memory, problem solving, imagination, and REM sleep. All you do is react to visual cues on a screen and press the right key when you get a location or audio match. More on that here.
You might think sleeping is a time to rest your brain, but that couldn’t be further from the truth of what’s actually happening. Sleep is your brain’s most active time. While you’re snoozing, your brain is working hard to repair, to clean out waste products, and to make and strengthen brain cell connections from what you learned and did throughout the day.
That’s why it’s crucial to not just sleep more, but sleep better. It’s not enough to just be in your bed. The magic happens during high-quality, restful sleep.
If you need help getting there, here’s an article about ways to get the kind of sleep your brain needs to do what it needs to do.
It’s all too common to tell your doctor you’re concerned about brain fog and forgetfulness, and she’ll tell you it’s all a part of getting older. It doesn’t have to be. Certain parts of aging make your brain more vulnerable, but that doesn’t mean you’re destined for a life of cloudy thinking and repeating yourself. Always trust yourself to know when something isn’t quite right, and look into ways to get things running smoothly again.
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