Brain Health and Nervous System Care Through Lifestyle and Dietary Choices

Your everyday choices – from the food you eat to how you move and rest – have a profound impact on your nervous system. Physical activity has been linked to a reduction of different mental and physical conditions like obesity, cardiovascular disease, depression, anxiety, Alzheimer’s, and some cancers. Studies have also shown that some diets […]
February 1, 2024
Dr. Ves Gitchev
Dr. Ves Gitchev MD is the Director of Global Healthcare Partnerships at Science 37. A pioneer and innovator with nearly 2 decades of experience in the research industry, Dr. Gitchev's focus is on delivering the highest quality results to drive scientific advancement.

Your everyday choices – from the food you eat to how you move and rest – have a profound impact on your nervous system. Physical activity has been linked to a reduction of different mental and physical conditions like obesity, cardiovascular disease, depression, anxiety, Alzheimer’s, and some cancers.

Studies have also shown that some diets rich in specific nutrients can significantly improve cognitive function and reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases. For example, diets rich in B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants have been shown to enhance memory, protect brain cells from damage, and even slow cognitive decline. On the flip side, processed foods, sugary drinks, and saturated fats act like brain weeds, causing inflammation and damage.

Healthy habits like proper nutrition, adequate sleep, and exercise, among other aspects of daily living, are critical in brain health and nervous system care. But before we dive into that, let’s explore the roles of the brain and nervous system and why they're vital for overall health and well-being.

Importance of Brain Health and a Well-Functioning Nervous System

The brain is like the central computer that controls all body functions and processes. It is part of the nervous system, a complex system that transmits signals between different parts of the body. The nervous system comprises the spinal cord, brain, and a network of nerves, which work together to control the way you see, move, speak, and breathe, among other functions. It:

  • Acts as the central control center for the entire body
  • Processes and interprets sensory information
  • Transmits electrical signals and chemical messages between different parts of the body
  • Coordinates voluntary and involuntary actions
  • Regulates muscle contractions for movement
  • Controls reflex responses to stimuli
  • Enables thinking, reasoning, and decision-making
  • Facilitates learning and memory formation
  • Regulates emotions and mood
  • Controls the expression of emotions
  • Facilitates fine and gross motor skills

But these functions become susceptible to disruption when we neglect our brain and nervous system health. Chronic stress, poor diet, and inadequate sleep can lead to cognitive decline, mood disorders, and even neurodegenerative diseases.

How to Boost your Brain Health through Lifestyle and Dietary Choices

Let’s have a look at why and how to improve your nervous system functionality with a healthy lifestyle:

Physical Exercise

Physical activity doesn’t just strengthen your muscles, it also invigorates the brain. Numerous studies consistently highlight the positive impact of regular physical activity on cognitive function and overall brain health. Engaging in aerobic exercises, like hiking, rope jumping, swimming, and dancing can help increase blood flow to the brain. This in turn promotes the growth of new neurons and enhances neuroplasticity.

A physical workout also triggers the release of serotonin and dopamine. These two neurotransmitters help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression and contribute to a positive emotional state. Add a mix of different workouts to your exercise routine to get the most out of it. For example, you can do cardiovascular workouts, strength training, and activities that enhance flexibility. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week to optimize your mental and neurological well-being.

Food & Nutrition

What you eat is like fuel for your brain, and a well-nourished brain is a happy and functioning one. Research shows that the MIND diet, which combines Mediterranean and DASH plans, is ideal for optimal brain health. This includes fish, olives, whole grains, nuts, fruits, and green leafy vegetables. These nutrient-packed foods are brain boosters. 

For example, Fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts brim with omega-3 fatty acids, which support the structure of brain cells, improve cognitive function, and lower the risk of cognitive decline. Berries and leafy greens act as protective shields, defending your brain against oxidative stress. Whole grains like quinoa, oats, and brown rice are complex carbohydrates that offer a steady release of glucose. You can also add some brain supplements, though these shouldn’t replace real food.

Sleep & Relaxation

Experts recommend 7-9 hours of quality sleep nightly for adults. Sleep has been shown to reduce mental fatigue, regulate metabolism, and improve memory recall. A minimum of 7 hours of sleep is also essential for proper behavioral and cognitive function. When you sleep, your brain recharges and reorganizes itself. It also gets rid of toxic waste that has built up throughout the day. As such, sleeping clears the brain and helps maintain its normal functioning. To that end, prioritize a relaxing bedtime routine, create a sleep-conducive environment, and avoid screens before bed.

Medical Health

Chronic health conditions like hypertension and diabetes can significantly impact your brain and nervous system. If you suspect a health issue, it is best to seek medical advice; early intervention can make a significant difference. This applies to clinical trials like those conducted by Science 37 too. You also want to schedule regular health check-ups, be honest with your healthcare provider about your concerns, and actively participate in managing your overall health. It's your ticket to a healthy nervous system and a sound mind.

Mental Fitness

Engaging in brain-boosting activities that challenge your brain is like a workout for your mind. Whether it's solving puzzles, learning a new language, practicing mindfulness, or diving into a good book, these mental exercises stimulate neuroplasticity, which can help keep your cognitive functions sharp and ready for action. It's not just about staying intellectually active; it's a holistic approach to mental well-being.

Social Interaction

We are social beings, and our brains thrive on connection. Regular social interaction isn't just about having a good time; it's an important aspect of reducing the risk of cognitive decline. Whether it's a heart-to-heart chat with a friend or joining a club, social engagement activates different areas of the brain, contributing to emotional resilience and overall neurological health. With that said, prioritize social interactions. Make time for loved ones, join groups aligned with your interests, and engage in community activities.

Your lifestyle and diet hold a significant influence on the well-being of your brain. The food you eat, your exercise routine, sleep quality, social interactions, and stress management all play crucial roles in determining that. These everyday choices are the building blocks that help shape the health of your mind.

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