Sports Pitch

How can we improve our Brain Health?

Last updated: 3.40pm, Tuesday 3rd May 2022 by

Brain health is something we should all be aware of. Staff within the Clinic are heavily involved in working with sporting bodies to improve and protect the brain health of our athletes. In addition, there are simple lifestyle adaptations we can all carry out which will benefit our own brain health. This short blog aims to present some of these areas and provide links to tools you can yourself for more information.

What is ‘brain health’?

Brain health is exactly what it says. A healthy brain is essential for living a long, active and fulfilled life. Our brain function starts to decline from around the age of 20 but we know there are lots of different factors that influence this decline. While we are not able to affect all of these (e.g., age, genetics), there are many aspects we can modify, through making positive changes in the way we live our lives – in the same way that we can reduce the likelihood of developing heart disease, stroke and cancer.

How can I maintain my brain health?

Research has suggested 12 modifiable risk factors we can look at to help us maintain our brain health. Our colleagues at Brain Health Scotland have put the following information together to explain how we can look after and promote good brain health.

Take part in exercise: Being physically active is one of the best things you can do to boost brain health. Regular exercise helps maintain a good blood supply to the brain, improves social and mental wellbeing and promotes good quality sleep. There are lots of ways you can become more active such as taking the stairs or leaving the car at home. Whatever works for you, aim to complete at least 2-3 hours of moderate intensity exercise over the course of every week.

Eat well: Making good food choices can help ensure your brain gets the nutrients it needs. Your diet is also vital for maintaining a healthy weight and reduces the risk of developing conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes, which can adversely affect brain health. Research shows that following a Mediterranean-style diet benefits your brain so eating lots of vegetables and less meat and sugar is key.

Switch Off: Long-term stress can harm the brain and make it harder to keep on top of the other factors that are key to keeping our brains healthy. Try to make time for yourself, and the things that help you relax. Ensure you get sufficient sleep as your brain. You should aim for 7-9 hours of good quality sleep every night. Not getting enough sleep can affect your memory and the ability to think in the short and long term.

Stay Connected:
Your brain thrives on company and benefits from the stimulation of you being with other people. We also know that if you continue to learn, and challenge yourself mentally throughout life, you can build your brain’s resilience. Picking up new skills and hobbies help too. Be creative. Learning a language or a musical instrument is a great way to stay sharp. Try a new activity in a group, or with a friend, to keep motivated while also getting that added social benefit.

Reduce Risks: Smoking causes damage to the blood vessels that supply the brain, interrupting the delivery of vital oxygen and nutrients. Stopping smoking – even after a long period – can reduce the risk of developing dementia. You don’t need to avoid alcohol completely, but exceeding the recommended weekly limits can damage the brain and increase your risk.

Be aware: Some medical conditions can have a knock-on effect on your brain’s wellbeing. Among them are those that affect blood supply, including diabetes, high blood pressure and atrial fibrillation. Conditions that might leave us feeling socially isolated, such as hearing loss and depression, can have an impact too – as can a history of head injury. Monitor your overall health with regular check-ups. Pick up on any concerns early, follow medical advice closely and take any medications as prescribed.

Click on this link to take the Brain Health Quiz and build your own individual plan to look after your brain health: Brain Health.

Further information:

Brain Health Scotland and collaborators have now launched an online learning course to provide you with novel insight and the latest science around brain health, the known risk factors that can affect it across the course of life, and how to reduce these risks.

Please click HERE to register for this free course: "Sport and Exercise for Brain Health - Online Course - FutureLearn"