Just as we work hard to understand and take care of our bodies, we have to consider our brains as well. As we get older it becomes more important to consider the best alternatives and changes we can make to ensure we are maintaining a healthy brain. Here are 4 lifestyle changes you can make to help benefit your brain health during perimenopause and menopause.
Lifestyle changes can help
Over the years much research has gone into the study of lifestyle changes and the effect they have on our brain health and memory loss. At the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA particularly, a study was conducted to analyze the impact of memory exercises and stress reduction combined with a healthy diet and physical exercise.
The idea of the study was to understand the relationship of these things and brain health. After 14 days, the results were analyzed and suggested a positive correlation between the analyzed factors. The brain’s metabolism decreased in working memory regions, suggesting an increased efficiency. The brain didn’t have to work as hard to accomplish tasks. This tells us that working on making small lifestyle changes can add up to a big impact on your brain health.
We know sleep is a crucial aspect of our overall health. Sleep helps us with energy levels, moods, stress, concentration, and overall health. It is also a key factor in helping ensure that our brains are staying healthy. Ensuring you are getting adequate sleep each night has been proven to have significant benefits, especially as you are approaching perimenopause. It’s been found that people who slept six hours or less per night in their 50s and 60s were more likely to develop dementia later in life. This fact shows us alone, that sleep is something we need to pay close attention to.
Women’s sleep is affected throughout life due to their menstrual cycle from adulthood through to menopause but as women approach menopause it has been found that due to hormonal changes, night sweats and missteps in our stress responses women approaching menopause may find sleeping more difficult. Knowing this, it is important to focus on ensuring that getting adequate sleep is attainable.
Some tips to help sleep:
- Turn devices off before heading to bed
- Consider a sleep schedule — our bodies do better when sticking to a routine and similar wake-up and sleep times
- Take a step outside daily for some morning Light
- Daily physical exercise
- Try to reduce stress where possible
- Avoid falling asleep in front of the TV
You exercise your body, you should do the same with your brain. Think of engaging your brain in challenging ways as a part of your daily routine. Studies have shown that challenging your mind may have short and long-term benefits for your brain and especially engagement in late-life cognitive activities.
Some different ways you can challenge your brain and always mixing things up and doing different activities
- Try your hand at building something
- Complete a jigsaw puzzle
- Do something artistic
- Play games such as bridge or chess — games that make you think strategically.
Break a sweat
Take the time out of your day to move your body. Movement provides an array of benefits to our health. Engaging in regular cardiovascular exercise that elevates your heart rate and increases blood flow to the brain and body has been linked to a reduced risk of cognitive decline and better cognitive performance. In general, getting at least 150 minutes per week of moderate – to vigorous-intensity physical activity is what you should aim for.
Try these great activities that will get your heart rate elevated:
- Brisk wood walk
- HIIT training — interval training that rotates between bursts of high intensity and rest
Fuel up right throughout perimenopause and menopause
What we put into our bodies directly relates to how we feel, our overall health, and our brain health.
Eating a healthy and balanced diet that is lower in fat and higher in vegetables and fruits is a great place to begin to make small changes. Alongside that, it’s important to ensure that you are drinking an adequate amount of fluids, high water content fruit and vegetables like watermelon, strawberries, and cantaloupe or cucumber, lettuce, celery, not smoking, and minimizing alcohol consumption.
Carbohydrates are an important part of maintaining a healthy brain as the glucose found in carbohydrates makes up the main fuel for the brain, so it’s important to not neglect this food group. Foods also rich in protein particularly the amino acid tryptophan can help with the production of serotonin which signals us to be more relaxed and in a better mood. Foods like Chia Seeds, Milk, Yogurts, and seeds like sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds are all good sources of tryptophan
Consider focusing on your gut-brain axis which is the communication between your gut and brain. Gut bacteria has been found to also affect brain health, so focusing on changing your gut bacteria may improve your brain health.
Some important nutrients that can help the gut-brain axis:
Fermented foods: have been shown to alter brain activity. This can include, yogurt Kefir and sauerkraut
Omega 3 & Omega 6: These fats are found in oily fish, eggs, nuts and seeds and used in high quantities in the human brain. This has been linked to helping the brain and a lower likelihood of cognitive decline
The Mediterranean diet & The Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH)
Following the Mediterranean dietary pattern has been associated with decreased cognitive decline and incident Alzheimers. Another dietary pattern that has been found to benefit the brain is the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH). When used together, these two dietary patterns has been associated with slower rates of cognitive decline.
The Mediterranean diet is high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, beans, cereals, grains, fish, and unsaturated fats such as olive oil. It usually includes a low intake of meat and dairy foods as well.
The DASH diet is rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains. It includes fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans and nuts. The DASH diet limits foods that are high in saturated fat, such as fatty meats and full-fat dairy products. It also focuses on minimizing sodium intake.
While it may seem as though there are quite a few things you need to do in order to maintain these habits. You don’t have to feel overwhelmed. Start with a few small things and continue from there. When you start to implement healthy habits, the rest will follow.
Ready to get your lifestyle behaviours in check but not sure where to begin?
Connect with me and let’s create a plan that works for your goals.