- Issues with memory, decision making, and word recall are common as we age. However, by supporting our cells and nervous system, we may be able to increase mental longevity and slow down aging.
- Simple lifestyle habits like exercise, diet, and stress management all play a key role in our memory retention as we age.
- Some of our favorite supplements to improve brain function include adaptogens, phospholipids, and methylene blue.
Solutions to Help Your Mind Age Gracefully
As our bodies age — and in turn, our cells — we begin to notice significant changes. Our skin wrinkles, our joints creak, and decreased energy levels start to slow us down…
There is a grieving process and a sense of loss that comes with aging. But as long as we take care of ourselves on a cellular level, aging is not something to be afraid of.
For many adults, the most jarring aspect of aging is the gradual decline of cognitive function. Misplacing your keys in the refrigerator or forgetting a doctor’s appointment can feel like a scary omen of mental degeneration. But cognitive decline doesn’t have to be your story.
Studies show it’s the culmination of essential lifestyle habits, like sleep, exercise, and nutrition that may be key to harnessing (and holding onto) cognitive function well into your golden years. We would add to that the powerful effects of supporting your cellular health for maintaining and extending healthy brain function.
In this article, we’re exploring how to improve brain function by optimizing our cells and prioritizing simple lifestyle changes.
The Importance of Cognitive Health: Why a Healthy Brain Matters At Any Age
Learning, memory, word recall, thinking, decision making, planning… if you’ve never experienced cognitive decline or impairment, you may take these activities for granted.
So much of the brain’s activity encompasses what it means to be human — boosting our mood, confidence, energy, and even extending our lifespan.
In many ways, the brain is a “use it or lose it” organ. It needs regular stimulation to perform optimally — and this may prove more difficult as we age. Not only do we need brain power to complete our favorite activities, but a healthy brain is important to maintain a positive outlook and mood, too.
When your brain is firing on all cylinders, you feel empowered, excited, and capable of anything.
But when simple things like word recall become difficult, this can greatly impact how you feel about yourself and others as well as your quality of life.
Preventing Cognitive Decline
Many of us are invested in our own brain health and the brain health of our aging relatives — as dementia and Alzheimer's diagnoses continue to rise.
It’s common to investigate potential causes for dementia and test magic bullet solutions on elderly patients only after cognitive decline is well underway. But as of now, there’s no miracle cure for Alzheimer’s, dementia, or other similar diseases. The best way to avoid it is to prevent cognitive decline in the first place.
The Gut-Brain Connection
Taking care of your gut is taking care of your brain. Science is still just beginning to uncover the vast connection between the gut and the brain — and how what you eat directly impacts how you think. Just like the brain, the gut carries and produces a number of neurotransmitters, which help to regulate the microbiome and your immune system, mood and cognition.
One study explains, “[The gut microbiome] interacts with the central nervous system by regulating brain chemistry and influencing neuro-endocrine systems associated with stress response, anxiety, and memory function.”
For example, about 95% of the body’s total serotonin is made in the gut. When the brain needs minerals, hormones, phospholipids, fatty acids, and more, it relies on the gut to efficiently break down foods and supplements. If that process is hindered by poor absorption or digestion, the brain feels the effects. This means that long-term stress on the gut directly impacts the brain.
How to Improve Brain Function with Health and Lifestyle Basics
Get your blood pumping! We’re convinced exercise is one of the biggest needle movers for brain health and preventing cognitive decline. Simple activities like walking, yoga, and recreational sports can increase brain synapses to improve neural connectivity and get blood circulating throughout the body, carrying vital oxygen to your organs. However you choose to exercise, know that your hard work isn’t just boosting your immune system, strengthening your heart, and improving your mood — it’s helping your brain, too!
Nutrition for brain health isn’t just about counting calories or weight loss — it’s so much more than that. Foods that help boost cognitive function include fresh fruits and berries (for antioxidants), healthy fats like avocado, fish, and seeds (for essential fatty acids), and leafy greens (rich in folate, vitamins, and beta carotene). Many healthcare professionals recommend the Mediterranean diet for brain health and longevity. We also love the modified keto diet.
Finally, minerals are so essential for cellular regeneration, wellness, and of course, brain function. Make sure your brain is getting enough energy through mineral testing and adequate supplementation.
If you’re concerned about mental decline, you should be making sleep a huge priority in your life. Proper rest helps to remove toxins and inflammation from the brain (draining the glymphatic system) while you rest.
Sleep also helps us process emotions and promotes healing of any wounds or illnesses. Ideally, adults should get around eight hours of sleep every night, depending on your age. Consult our sleep guide to learn more about your optimal sleep needs.
Nervous System Resilience
Recent medical studies are exploring the relationship between childhood trauma and brain health. Unfortunately, scientists support the idea that childhood trauma and PTSD do put us at a greater risk for cognitive diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Fortunately, there are tools that can help calm symptoms of PTSD today while possibly lowering your risk for cognitive decline in the future. By tapping into the nervous system, we may be able to calm our bodies down and lower inflammation in our brains.
Some ways you can calm the nervous system include:
- Regular yoga practice or other somatic exercise
- Brain retraining and neuroplasticity
- Vagus nerve exercises
- Breathing exercises
- EFT tapping
- Regular outdoor walks and spending time in nature
Top Supplements to Help Increase Brain Function
What are the best supplements for a healthy brain? Here, we’re breaking down our favorites: phospholipids, essential fatty acids, adaptogens, and more.
Phospholipids like BodyBio PC
What is phosphatidylcholine? Just one of our favorite supplements ever for brain health and a cellular health superhero to boot. The brain is made up of 60% lipids, and phosphatidylcholine (one type of phospholipid) accounts for 50% of the outer layer of the cell membrane (brain cells included!). This means phospholipids are a must-have for your brain-powering supplement stack.
We created our phospholipid complex, BodyBio PC specifically to increase cognitive function in healthy and aging adults alongside supporting your cellular health.
Essential Fatty Acids
Did you know? Most of your brain is made up of fat. That’s why healthy fats (like avocados, fish, and nuts) are usually recommended for a brain-powered diet. But you may need to include supplemental fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6) as an extra step toward caring for your brain.
We’re passionate about finding the right balance of essential fatty acids — as most of us already consume too much omega-6 in our diets and not enough omega-3. Our Balance Oil provides the perfect non-oxidized oil blend to keep inflammation away from your brain and body. If you need extra omega-3 fatty acids, a high quality fish oil supplement may not be a bad idea either.
Adaptogens help you “adapt” to stress and your environment. They can give the central nervous system a break while reducing inflammation in the body and brain. And, they’re perfectly safe to take for just about everyone — most adaptogens are either herbs or mushroom supplements.
Your brain cells need oxygen in order to thrive. If that oxygen supply is slow, this can impact your memory and word recall. Enter methylene blue. A holistic health buzzword, this new supplement may help to increase brain cell respiration (aka, the flow of oxygen to your cells). As a powerful antioxidant, it may help to boost your mood and strengthen memory and cognitive function over time.
SAM-e is a supplement we don’t hear talked about nearly enough. As a precursor to both dopamine and glutathione production, SAM-e is known to improve detoxification as well as mood and brain cell function. This little-known supplement may be a big player in maintaining cognitive health and preventing mental decline alongside a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Vitamin D isn’t a new and fancy supplement for cognitive health but that doesn’t mean that the good old sunshine vitamin should be dismissed for its brain-supportive abilities. Research shows that vitamin D likely supports healthy cognitive aging and memory, and higher levels of vitamin D in the brain have been linked with lower rates of dementia and cognitive decline. Most people do well with 5,000 IUs per day of supplemental vitamin D — just make sure your supplement isn’t mixed with toxic oils or unnecessary additives! Vitamin D supplements with MCT oil or olive oil bases are ideal.
Don’t Let Your Fears about Cognitive Decline Hold You Back
Mintzer, J., Donovan, K. A., Kindy, A. Z., Lock, S. L., Chura, L. R., & Barracca, N. (2019). Lifestyle Choices and Brain Health. Frontiers in medicine, 6, 204. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmed.2019.00204
Carabotti, M., Scirocco, A., Maselli, M. A., & Severi, C. (2015). The gut-brain axis: interactions between enteric microbiota, central and enteric nervous systems. Annals of gastroenterology, 28(2), 203–209.
Burri, A., Maercker, A., Krammer, S., & Simmen-Janevska, K. (2013). Childhood trauma and PTSD symptoms increase the risk of cognitive impairment in a sample of former indentured child laborers in old age. PloS one, 8(2), e57826. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0057826
Panossian, A., & Wikman, G. (2010). Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress-Protective Activity. Pharmaceuticals (Basel, Switzerland), 3(1), 188–224. https://doi.org/10.3390/ph3010188