Can’t quite remember where you put your keys, eyeglasses or phone? If so, you might be forgetting something more important: movement. While doctors often focus on good circulation for heart health, a well-functioning brain needs a strong blood supply for recall, focus and other mental tasks. Regular exercise is one of the smartest habits you can adopt for brain health, especially as you age. Continue reading to learn how to increase blood flow to the brain and improve your memory by staying active.
The Importance of Blood Flow in the Brain
It’s no secret the body needs proper blood flow to function, and the brain is no exception. In fact, despite making up only about 2% of a person’s body weight, the brain uses a ton of resources: 15% of cardiac output and 20% of the body’s oxygen supply. The blood circulating through your brain provides oxygen and key nutrients, such as glucose for energy. The circle of Willis — a ring of arteries at the base of the brain — is largely responsible for supplying the organ with blood, with smaller blood vessels branching out to different areas. Your brain also has venous sinuses that help it get rid of carbon dioxide and other waste products. Learning how to increase blood flow to the brain has significant benefits. By maintaining healthy circulation, you can decrease the likelihood of memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. You can also lower your risk of other serious health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease and a range of mental health disorders.
How Low Blood Flow Affects Your Brain
Poor blood flow to your brain may result in mild to severe memory and health problems. Impaired circulation means less oxygen and energy available for your brain to use. In addition, it becomes harder for your brain to expel metabolic waste products and make use of key amino acids, vitamins and minerals. Struggling with cognitive tasks is a common symptom of inadequate blood flow. You may start to notice brain fog, fatigue and even memory loss. It can also affect your mental health, since blood brings hormones and neurotransmitters to the brain. When this process is disrupted, there’s a greater risk of hormonal imbalance and psychiatric conditions, including depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and attention deficit disorder/attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD). As we age, our brain is at greater risk of vascular dementia. This type of dementia is the second most common and accounts for 20% to 40% of all cases, surpassed only by Alzheimer’s disease. It can have a sudden onset or appear as a gradual decline in cognitive ability. Vascular dementia symptoms include:
- Having a harder time concentrating
- Irritability or mood swings for no reason
- Getting lost or easily confused
- Misplacing common items
- Struggling with balance or gait
- Short-term memory problems
When blood flow to the back of the brain is disrupted, the consequences can be severe. If you have genetic risk factors for circulatory diseases, pay extra attention to your lifestyle choices.
How to Increase Blood Flow to the Brain
If you find yourself relying on caffeine to get through the day, you could be masking issues with brain health. Fortunately, there are proven ways to increase blood flow to the brain. One of the simplest yet most effective ways is aerobic exercise (aka cardio). Cardio pumps up your breathing and heart rate, since oxygen-rich blood is required to fuel your body during the workout. This is good news for your heart but also for your brain. When you learn how to get more oxygen to the brain, it can improve blood flow lower inflammation, strengthen arteries and promote new brain cell growth — all pluses for staving off cognitive decline. The type of cardio you do is less important than the amount. However, if you suffer from joint pain or other mobility issues, low-impact activities such as swimming and brisk walking are good choices. It’s also beneficial to switch things up with varied intervals or a completely new activity. Challenging your brain is just as important as challenging your muscles. Look for ways to squeeze in extra activity. Simple body weight exercises can be done while watching TV or waiting for dinner to finish cooking. Try taking the stairs instead of the escalator, and park your vehicle farther away when shopping to get in more steps. Even doing household chores gives you an opportunity to get your blood pumping and get oxygen to your brain. A study of American adults aged 45 and older found that cognitive decline was about half as prevalent in physically active individuals compared to inactive ones. While the benefits depend on fitness level, nonathletic people can see results from 20 minutes of moderate exercise. Federal guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes of activity per week — you could divide this into 30-minute sessions 5 days a week, for example.
Other Ways to Boost Your Brain Health
Besides cardio and physical activity, there are many ways to enhance brain health. Making a few changes to your diet and lifestyle may be just what your brain has been craving. Here are some suggestions for boosting your cognitive health:
- Drink enough water every day to stay hydrated.
- Listen to stimulating music.
- Set aside 15 minutes a day for meditation or breathing exercises.
- Have an ounce of dark chocolate for a snack.
- Limit your daily stress.
- Quit drinking or reduce your alcohol intake.
- Quit smoking.
- Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night.
- Try clinical therapies backed by neuroscience.
Neurotherapy offers a powerful alternative to pharmaceuticals for improving memory and cognitive performance. At Sun Health Center, we specialize in creating personalized solutions for restoring and improving brain function. Our facility uses cutting-edge neuroscience to provide a range of services for the betterment of our patients’ minds and lives. We treat adult men and women looking to improve brain performance, heal from a head injury, recover from addiction or overcome mental health issues. Reach out to us today to find out how our innovative treatments can improve your quality of life.