Maximizing brain health may be more important than you think. Practicing brain-strengthening habits keeps your mind sharp and helps prevent or delay cognition problems such as Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Not only is this important in individual’s personal lives, but their professional lives as well.
Here are seven lifestyle tips that can help you and your fellow employees maintain healthy brains and improve workplace productivity.
1. Eat Raw Fruits and Vegetables
Believe it or not, eating fruits and veggies is a way to ward off brain cognition issues that are associated with aging. A 2018 study published in Frontiers in Psychology found that a higher intake of raw fruits and veggies is associated with better mental health, reduced symptoms of depression and a higher incidence of satisfaction with life.
The best raw foods (related to better brain health) that were highlighted in this study include dark leafy greens like lettuce and spinach, as well as cucumbers, carrots, kiwifruit, berries, apples, bananas, grapefruit and citrus fruits. In order to reap the benefits, aim to eat at least one serving of fruits or veggies during each meal or snack.
2. Consume Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Getting plenty of omega-3s from fish or fish oil supplements keeps your brain functioning at its best. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says that docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is needed for efficient brain function, enhanced memory and improved learning capabilities, as well as reduced cognitive decline associated with aging. The organization also notes that DHA deficiencies are linked with mental problems, forgetfulness and a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
To ensure you’re consuming enough omega-3s, aim to eat a serving of fish (such as tuna or salmon) three times a week, or seek out supplements containing DHA and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Taking daily dosages of omega-3s is the best way to prevent deficiency in this essential nutrient. Adults should aim for at least 500 milligrams of DHA plus EPA daily.
3. Use Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The olive oil-rich Mediterranean diet is associated with numerous health benefits, including a reduced risk for chronic disease and other perks related to staying healthy and living longer. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Translational Medicine found that following a Mediterranean diet and consuming extra virgin olive oil results in improved cognitive function in older adults, and may help protect against the mental decline associated with aging.
4. Get Plenty of Sleep
Many Americans don’t get the sleep necessary to keep disease risk low and promote a healthy brain. In fact, only one in three American adults gets enough sleep regularly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Sleep deprivation makes it hard to focus, perform well at work and school, pay attention and drive safely. It also decreases individual’s reaction time and ability to remember things.
A good night’s sleep is crucial for high-level problem solving and innovative thinking. The CDC recommends adults get seven to nine hours of sleep each night to maximize overall health and wellness.
5. Stay Physically Active
Exercise provides you with numerous health benefits, such as a lower risk for conditions like obesity, heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Regular exercise also helps boost thinking and memory skills, Harvard Health Publishing notes. Researchers report that aerobic exercise boosts the size of the area of the brain involved in learning and verbal memory—which may help protect against dementia.
It’s a good idea to stay physically active, even during busy periods. Aim to complete at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week, and try to keep your body moving throughout the day (by doing yard work, walking to work, etc.).
6. Exercise Your Mind
Working out your mind is just as important as regular physical activity when it comes to maximizing the health of your brain. The Alzheimer’s Society reports that mind exercises may lower your risk for developing dementia.
These exercises aren’t just beneficial to your brain health—they’re fun! You can practice crossword puzzles, take online courses, regularly read books, learn a new language and play creative mind games (such as dominoes, Yahtzee, card games or scrabble, for example).
7. Avoid Smoking and Drinking
Smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol increases your chance of developing dementia, and excessive alcohol consumption may cause alcohol-related brain damage, according to the Alzheimer’s Society. It’s a good idea to encourage your colleagues to limit—or avoid—smoking and drinking. Additionally, your company could offer on-site smoking cessation programs or alcoholic support groups as part of its employee health and wellness offerings.
Living a healthy lifestyle greatly increases the chance of maximizing brain health, which can boost workplace productivity and job satisfaction. It couldn’t hurt to occasionally remind your fellow employees about the importance of a healthy mind in the workplace, and implement wellness programs as needed.