I’m a Neurologist – These are six things I do every day to keep my mind sharp

I'm a Neurologist - These are six things I do every day to keep my mind sharp

Dr. Robert Friedland, a neurologist at the University of Louisville, says that enhancing cognitive health means respecting ‘the importance of your body.’

A neurologist reveals the six things he does every day to keep his mind sharp.

With cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s disease on the rise in the United States, Dr. Robert Friedland says strengthening your brain is more important than ever.

The neurologist – from the University of Louisville – told Newstimesuk.com: ‘Respect the importance of your body.’

‘Instead of turning on the TV or opening the newspaper, starting the day with meditation can boost mental health.’

Dr Friedland – who is also the author of Unaging: Four Factors That Affect Your Age – says evidence is beginning to show that taking care of your oral health is just as important when it comes to preventing cognitive decline.

Here’s what Dr. Friedland does every day to keep his mind in tip-top shape:

Prioritize fiber

When it comes to eating for brain health, plant-based fiber is important, Dr. Friedland said.

That’s 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 says, is a direct cause of cognitive decline and conditions like dementia.

Dr. Friedland recommends choosing plant-based, fiber-rich foods such as spinach, okra, carrots, avocados, oats, and broccoli.

Several plant-based foods are packed with fiber, including avocados, oats, broccoli, artichokes, and lentils.

In addition to avoiding processed foods, Dr. Friedland recommends staying away from beef, pork, and chicken.

“Chicken has no fiber, so when you’re eating chicken, you’re eating something that has no value for your microbiota or your gut bacteria,” he says.

‘If the space on your plate can be taken up with something that’s actually good for you, that’s great.’

Instead of chicken, she recommends swapping it for vegetables like spinach, okra or carrots.

If you still want meat, choose fatty fish like salmon.

Remember your friends

To keep his brain sharp, Dr. Friedland makes time for social activities like hiking, tennis and walking with friends.

‘Being involved in social and meaningful activities is good for the brain,’ she says.

Studies upon studies have shown that social isolation and loneliness are the greatest risk factors for poor cognition in older adults.

Loneliness can be a precursor to depression.

Socialization can stimulate attention and memory and help strengthen neural networks. You may be smiling and talking, but your brain is working. 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 obstacles and stress.

go outside

When you make plans with friends, take them out. It can boost your brain health.

Dr. Friedland links the benefits to how our ancestors evolved hundreds of thousands of years ago. ‘They lived in a natural environment. Our genes are selected because they help us live in that environment,’ he said.

For example, a 2015 study suggests that this ancestral link enables us to naturally connect with nature.

‘That exposure to the natural world also helps protect your mind.’

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 associated with shorter attention spans.

Don’t forget to floss

While brushing and flossing are key to gum health, research shows it can also prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

It’s clear that brushing and flossing help prevent cavities and gum disease, but it can also improve cognitive function.

A 2021 study published in the Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine suggests that regular flossing may prevent dementia. The researchers said that each missing tooth increased a participant’s risk of developing a cognitive condition.

Researchers in Japan also found that tooth loss and gum disease were linked to shrinking of the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory and Alzheimer’s disease.

‘Oral health is important for the brain,’ says Dr Friedland. ‘There’s a lot of bacteria in the mouth and you probably can’t get rid of them, but you can help control them by brushing and flossing every day.’

Sleep for eight hours

Dr. Friedland recommends eight hours of sleep each night to keep your brain sharp.

‘Sleep is an important part of brain health,’ he said.

Because sleep helps the brain form memories and process new information.

When you are sleep deprived, the protein beta-amyloid builds up in neurons.

According to the National Institutes of Health, recent research suggests that when they accumulate, they impair brain function and may lead to Alzheimer’s disease.

A small 2018 study by the NIH suggests that just one night of sleep loss increases these proteins.

Sleep increases brain plasticity, which is the ability to adapt to new experiences and situations. Greater plasticity may lead to better cognitive function with age.

Make time for meditation

‘I meditate every day, and find it very important to maintain my peace of mind,’ said Dr Friedland.

‘Meditation is an opportunity every day to allow your mind to settle to some degree.’

He practices mindfulness meditation—bringing your attention to the present moment—for 30 minutes a day. Although Dr. Friedland prefers mornings, he is open to them whenever he has time.

A systematic review found that meditation is a potential practice for older adults and can offset age-related cognitive decline.

‘I think it’s clear that time spent meditating is more valuable than reading the newspaper or watching television,’ Dr Friedland said.

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