There’s more evidence than ever that small tweaks to your lifestyle, diet and environment can make a big difference when it comes to protecting and promoting cognitive functions. So, what can you do to keep your brain in peak health?
You know that feeling when a word is on the tip of your tongue but you just can’t quite get to it? Or when you're sat in a big meeting, desperate to impress, but your brain is having a computer-says-no moment? It's times like this that we realise quite how important keeping our brains fresh can be.
But cognitive health isn’t just about doing crosswords, getting your eight hours kip and swapping your scrolling for actual conversations. In fact, there’s more evidence than ever that small tweaks to your lifestyle, diet and environment can make a big difference when it comes to protecting and promoting brainpower. So, what can you do?
What is cognitive health?
Put simply, cognitive health is the ability of the brain to do the things you would expect it to; mental processes commonly considered as ‘cognition’ include being able to think, to learn, to use language, to remember and show judgement. It doesn’t however include brain functions such as balance and coordination, which fall under the ‘motor functions’ category. While cognitive function can naturally decrease as part of the ageing process, it can also be impaired in the short term by factors such as stress, alcohol consumption or illness.
Make sure you’re getting your nutrients
Links have long been made between the Mediterranean diet - centred around food rich in anti-inflammatories and anti-oxidants - and the preservation of cognitive health (1) but the role of nutrition in optimal cognitive function doesn’t stop there, especially considering that most of us don’t actually follow this eating pattern regularly.
Neburia’s Cognifuel is an all-natural energy drink that’s been proven to enhance cognition and combat fatigue, and does so through a careful blend of natural botanicals and 22 vitamins and minerals, meticulously formulated to enhance energy, power focus, soothe stress, increase hydration, and build immunity. Aside from all the usual suspects, including your B12s for energy, and immunity boosting Vitamin A and Vitamin D, it also boasts some harder to come by additions that can make all the difference. In the name of demystifying nutrition, here’s a few you may not have heard of:
: This herb, which has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine, is credited with helping to improve concentration and cognition through its anti-oxidative properties. One study even went as far as saying that while more research is needed, it may have a place in future therapeutic treatments for degenerative brain conditions such as Alzheimers (2).
: The deep red berries of this adaptogenic plant are believed to help the body adapt to stress, with test studies showing reduced cortisol levels and blood pressure in subjects that had been given this instead of a placebo (3).
: Another ingredient long used in Ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha has been shown time and time again to contribute positively to cognitive function, partly because it helps support the body’s reaction to stress.
Get regular exercise
We’ve spoken before about how getting regular exercise can boost brainpower
, and the evidence for this only seems to be getting stronger. One 2019 study which looked at the relationship between fitness and cognitive function in 1200 adults, of an average 28.8 years of age and taking into account social and environmental factors that scientists described as “often overlooked” in similar studies, found a correlation between those who performed better on a two-minute walking test and those who displayed higher overall cognitive function. What’s more, they found that in general, the better their performance in the walking test, the stronger the structural integrity of white matter, which is crucial to improving the speed and quality of nerve connections in the brain (4).
Hydrate hydrate hydrate
Aside from the great skin and mood-lifting benefits of getting your two litres a day, keeping hydrated can also have a pretty major impact on how effectively your brain functions, with studies showing that “dehydration levels of 1% may adversely affect cognitive performance” (5). No wonder choosing a takeaway is so hard after a big night out. For added oomph, Neubria have included electrolyte minerals such as magnesium, sodium and potassium in their Cognifuel recipe, all of which are key to keeping your brain sharp in themselves.
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Godos J, Galvano F. Insights on Mediterranean Diet from the SUN Cohort: Cardiovascular and Cognitive Health. Nutrients. 2020; 12(5):1332. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12051332
Tamara Simpson, Matthew Pase, Con Stough, "Bacopa monnieri as an Antioxidant Therapy to Reduce Oxidative Stress in the Aging Brain", Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2015, Article ID 615384, 9 pages, 2015. https://doi.org/10.1155/2015/615384
Panossian A, Hambardzumyan M, Hovhanissyan A, Wikman G. The Adaptogens Rhodiola and Schizandra Modify the Response to Immobilization Stress in Rabbits by Suppressing the Increase of Phosphorylated Stress-activated Protein Kinase, Nitric Oxide and Cortisol. Drug Target Insights. January 2007. doi:10.1177/117739280700200011
Nils Opel, Stella Martin, Susanne Meinert, Ronny Redlich, Verena Enneking, Maike Richter, Janik Goltermann, Andreas Johnen, Udo Dannlowski & Jonathan Repple. White matter microstructure mediates the association between physical fitness and cognition in healthy, young adults. (2019).
5. Harris R. Lieberman. Hydration and Cognition: A Critical Review and Recommendations for Future Research, Journal of the American College of Nutrition, (2007)