Best ways to improve your brain health
Congratulations on taking your Brain Health Assessment.
The Brain Health Assessment was created by our neuroscientist, Dr Tara Swart as a tool to quickly and easily gauge your brain health. It assesses your daily behaviours in combination with how you’ve been feeling, and how well your brain has been functioning—to build a picture of the overall health of your brain.
> Read more about the how and the why of the Brain Health Assessment here.
As you can see, the average score is 51. But, wherever your score sits on that graph, the main aim here is to help you see where you are at the moment, and empower you to make positive changes to the key elements of your brain care routine. These are:
- Diet and nutrition
- Social connection
Read on for practical advice on what you can start doing differently today, to impact your brain health tomorrow.
Nutrition for the brain
Did you know? The brain is the hungriest part of your body. It’s just 2.5% of your body mass, but it uses 20% of your energy.
The brain has a very particular set of nutritional requirements, and even though most of us dutifully consume plenty of fruit and veg, and avoid greasy kebabs wherever possible, research shows that 99% of us still don’t feed our brain what it needs to thrive.
For example, in an ideal world, your brain would like: blueberries and citrus, oily fish, legumes, nuts and seeds, lean meats, lots of green veg, eggs, cereals, and dairy EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
Without this daily nutrient supply, it’s simply not possible for your brain to perform at its full potential.
Is there an easier way?
Eating your way through this list every day takes supreme organisation and commitment, and supplementing the nutrients individually is expensive and a pain.
That’s why we made Heights. It’s designed by our in-house team of neuroscientists and dietitians to give your brain exactly what it needs—in just two capsules a day.
(Oh, and here’s your code for 10% off a quarterly package of Heights: BHS10)
Hydration for the brain
The body is over ⅔ water, it’s essential for everything—even your bones. We need to drink about half a litre of water for every 15kg/33lbs of our body weight per day—plus an extra glass for every tea, coffee, or alcoholic drink.
The brain is a thirsty organ, and if you're as little as 1-3% dehydrated, it impacts your focus, memory and concentration. And, by the time you're aware that you're thirsty, or your lips are dry, you’re way more than 3% dehydrated.
Here are two of our favourite hydration hacks:
- Put a large glass of water by your bed, and drink it first thing in the morning when you wake up before you put the kettle on.
- Make it easy to drink water at work. Buy a water bottle to sip from while you’re at your desk, or a large water jug you commit to finishing throughout the day.
Sleep for the brain
Sleep is vital for a healthy brain. During the night, there's an 8-hour cleansing process, which is absolutely vital to clean out the toxins that build up during the day. These are mainly from stress, alcohol, processed or smoked foods, and the general metabolism of the body— particularly as we age.
The amyloid plaques, tangles and tau proteins that are flushed out at night are major risk factors for diseases of ageing like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. So, compromising your sleep is potentially compromising your brain-health going forward.
Sleep is a hugely personal thing, so we won’t try to over-simplify it. But, here are some things that can help.
- Keep your sleep and waking times as consistent as possible for major brain benefits.
- Alcohol and caffeine have a huge impact on sleep quality. Caffeine can still be in your system up to 12 hours later, so lay off the lattes after 10-11am.
- Use that Do Not Disturb mode. Being off your phone for an hour before bed can help you to wind down, get some peace, and avoid blue light (which can mess up your melatonin—the sleep hormone).
- Make sure your nutrition is on point. If you have trouble sleeping, deficiencies in vitamin D, E, B6 and B12 could be to blame.
>Want more sleep tips from a pro? Learn all about it from Sleep Evangelist, Dr Bostock.
Mindfulness for the brain
The benefits of mindfulness on the brain seem to be an ever-growing list. From the tangible thickening of grey matter in the brain, to being better able to manage our stress response—there’s no question that mindful practices are Good For You.
Science shows that mindful people are more optimistic, less anxious, more focused, more resilient, and more creative. Looking for more mindful moments in your everyday life?
Here are a few suggestions:
- Being mindful is simply being present. So often we multitask; scrolling on the loo, watching tv while we eat, talking while walking—distracting ourselves throughout the day. For a mindful moment, simply pick a task, and give it your undivided attention, noticing everything about it.
- Make breathing exercises a habit by starting and ending your day with 5 deep belly breaths.
- Try meditation apps like Calm to ease your way in.
>Learn how to master meditation from instructor, Natalia Bojanic.
Exercise for the brain
Although not immediately obvious, regular exercise is vital for a healthy functioning brain. Movement is one of the best ways to destress (and can make you more resilient to stress, too), release feel-good endorphins, increase oxygen flow, strengthen the learning and memory areas of the brain, and increase creativity.
It also helps the brain to create new brain cells, and encourage the release of neurotransmitters—vital for keeping your brain sharp as you age.
Feel the need to move more?
- Start small, just 10 minutes of movement a day is a great place to begin.
- Make it fun. If HIIT’s not your thing, don’t force it. Do whatever appeals to you; dancing round the living room, cycling, yoga… the options are endless.
- Need ideas? Take a walk to boost creativity.
- Try to make your life more active, rather than simply working out 3x a week. This involves regular movement throughout the day such as walking meetings, choosing to stand rather than sit, cycling instead of driving...you get the idea.
>Learn why the brain loves a walk, by Professor Shane O’Mara.
Social connection for the brain
Did you know that the people who live the longest in the world all have strong social lives?
Science shows that the support of friends can make stressful situations more manageable, help to release feel-good hormones, make us laugh, and stave off loneliness—all crucially important for mental well-being.
Craving connection? Here are some small ways to reach out:
- Think of your friendships as investments, they need a little time and energy but are so worth the pay-off.
- Pick up the phone. It’s easy to fall into a “no-talking” trap, but you’ll never get the same connection via text as you will with a real conversation.
- When you see a loved one, stop what you’re doing and greet them. Embrace, make eye contact. This will decrease your stress, and increase your sense of connection.
>Alain de Botton explains the purpose of friends.
Heights and the brain
By taking the Brain Health Assessment, you’ve already taken an important step in taking care of your most important organ, and we hope this has given you some valuable ideas on how to improve your score.
If you want to take it a step further, and ensure you're nourishing your brain in the best way possible, perhaps you’d like to try Heights? In case you missed it, here’s your code for 10% off a quarterly package of Heights: BHS10.
Here’s why you might like it:
- Improves sleep and energy levels
- Boosts mood and helps manage stress
- Sharpens focus and memory
- Bolsters immunity and helps avoid cognitive decline
- Designed by neuroscientist, Dr Tara Swart and dietitian Sophie Medlin
- Replaces most other multivitamins and supplements you may already be taking
>I’m in! Get my brain some Heights
After 1-2 months of Heights, we’d recommend taking the Brain Health Assessment again to see how you’re getting on.
>Did you like the Brain Health Assessment? Share it with your friends and family to help us build a tribe of people putting their brains first: https://www.yourheights.com/pages/brain-health-assessment