Neuroscientist reveals how to improve brain health

brain lifting weights

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There are important pillars to look out for when it comes to brain health.

Like many aspects of our health, the basics to nurture are sleep, food, and exercise.

Neuroscientist Dr Elisabeth Philipps of Fourfive says there are ways we can optimize these areas to improve brain health.

It’s important to get the basics under control, and these are simple, easy ways to make sure your day-to-day life isn’t negatively impacting your mind.

These are the things to include in your routine.

How to recognize your brain needs some TLC

Is it time to give your brain some extra attention?

Stress, high sugar and low-quality diets can have major effects on brain health.

Elisabeth says: ‘There is a lot of scientific evidence showing that the stress hormone cortisol changes the structure of the brain and that poorly controlled blood sugar and insulin response also affect brain function, particularly how brain cells make ‘thread and fire’.

Regularly eating a lot of sugary foods leads to irregular blood sugar problems.

‘Short-term symptoms include brain fog, fatigue and low moods, but this is just the beginning.

‘Prolonged blood sugar and insulin problems not only increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, but also damage the brain.

‘Alzheimer’s disease is now called type 3 diabetes for a reason.’

dr. Elisabeth says the warning signs to look out for when your brain is struggling are:

  • Feeling tired if you wake up for more than three days
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • A loss of focus


When you’re under stress, it’s important to pay attention to your sleep quality — which, when it declines, affects the brain’s ability to repair and repair itself.

Elisabeth says: ‘Establishing a bedtime routine – it should mean avoiding bright lights an hour before bedtime and you could use mindfulness or meditation apps.

“Try to keep a journal before going to bed to get thoughts out of your head and release stress.

“CBD also helps to balance the brain’s response to sleep, so can be a helpful part of a healthy sleep routine.”


The brain is made up of nearly 60% fat, so you shouldn’t cut it out of your diet.

Elisabeth says: ‘For specific focus, I would recommend a good breakfast smoothie to start your day – this would contain healthy fats such as almonds, pumpkin seeds, coconut oil, in addition to proteins from those foods and a protein powder.

“Smoothies also mix the food so your gut doesn’t have to do the heavy lifting of digestion, so you get instant access to their brain-boosting nutrients.

She also says to include omega-3 essential fatty acids from oil fish like salmon, plus flaxseed, eggs and nuts in your diet.

“Avocados and extra virgin olive oil (preferably not heated but used as a dressing for vegetables or salad) also contain brain-stimulating fats,” she adds.


Fitness phobes rejoice – Elisabeth says, ‘Longer and more intense exercise isn’t necessarily better for brain health, as it can add extra stress and reduce oxygen circulation.’

Instead, add 30 minutes of walking to your day.

‘This can be very helpful when it comes to keeping your brain in top shape and it needs oxygen to function, so fresh air is best.

“Forest bathing is highly recommended to calm brain activity and boost mood, energy and concentration in the long run.”

To keep your mind “fit” with brain exercises, you can also do crosswords, sudokus, play an instrument or listen to music.


Supplements should not be used in place of a healthy diet, but they can enhance and support an existing diet.

Elisabeth says: ‘Your brain needs fuel to function, and to burn that fuel you need a lot of nutrients to keep the brain cells functioning.

‘That’s why a varied diet, rich in many different colored vegetables, packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, is important for brain health.

‘Products such as fish oil help to replenish the essential fatty acids that are lacking in the diet. Eggs contain choline, another important fat that makes up brain cells, but if you don’t eat eggs, you can supplement it with lecithin powder, which contains choline and other healthy phospholipid fats.

‘The gut and the brain are closely linked via the gut-brain axis. This means that what happens in the gut affects brain function and health.

‘Helping to maintain healthy gut bacteria levels is essential for overall health and brain function. Therefore, probiotic supplements containing healthy gut bacteria can help support our brain health.

“Vitamin B12 is also important, especially if you’re on a vegan diet – a methylcobalamin form supplement, either as part of a multi-nutrient or on its own.”


Finally, cut out people who are sucking you dry.

Elisabeth says it’s important to “spend time with people who cheer you up.”

She adds: “Quality relationships support a healthy brain. Relationships that drain energy and emotion can negatively affect brain health.”

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