Six Simple Strategies to Maintain Cognitive Health
What is cognitive health? Cognitive Health is about thinking…how you recall, process, and interpret the world around you. Your cognitive health is vital to your everyday experience, overall well-being and longevity explains Dr. Julie Rowin, a board-certified neurologist and integrative medicine physician at Verde Valley Naturopathic Medicine in Sedona where she specializes in the treatment and prevention of neurological illness. She explains 6 simple strategies that an integrative neurology approach uses to help stave off cognitive decline.
1. Optimize gut health and nutritional status
Modern science is just beginning to understand that neurological disease often starts in the gut.
Much of our modern American diet is void of the nutrients needed to keep our brain healthy and instead loaded with ingredients that are brain toxic including chemical additives, preservatives and white flour and sugar. Eating a whole food, clean diet including fatty fish and all colors of vegetables and fruits, staying away from highly processed foods, and seeing an integrative doctor to optimize gut health can lead to improved cognitive function.
Dr. Rowin explains, as we age our need for certain nutrients change and may even increase. Even if we eat a nutritious diet, our ability to absorb these nutrients decrease due to reduced stomach acid, medications and other factors. It is useful to have testing to evaluate for vitamin and mineral deficiencies which can affect overall cognitive health.
Nutritional testing as well as gut health evaluations indicate areas where diet change and supplementation may be beneficial.
2. Prioritize sleep
Getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep nightly is one of the best things you can do for optimal brain function. Your brain processes memories and promotes neuron growth during sleep. Over the long-term, poor sleep may put you at higher risk of cognitive decline.
3. Stay active
According to Dr. Rowin, regular at least moderate intensity exercise leads to improved memory and cognition. Exercise also increases oxygen to the brain which slows down the loss of nerve cells as we age.
4. Challenge your brain
It is important to engage in a variety of activities that are challenging and new. Engage in activities you love and support continued learning. Staying curious and finding a meaningful purpose in life can go a long way in supporting your cognitive health.
5. Stay connected
Staying connected with family, friends and your community is difficult for many in our post-COVID world, but strong social connections have been shown to protect against Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
6. Practice Mindfulness
Cognitive health and memory are also enhanced by mindfulness activities such as breathwork, meditation, tai chi and yoga.