Brain health


Changes to our bodies and brains are normal as we age, but certain behaviours and lifestyle choices can speed up cognitive decline or cause our brains to age fast than they should.  

Everyone gets forgetful, but there are some warning signs that we should be on the look-out for that show abnormal changes in our brain function. These include forgetting new information with no clear recall later, repeatedly asking the same questions, confusion, inability to perform usual tasks, and changes in our ability to solve problems or plan things.



To keep our brains healthy there are some lifestyle activities that can improve our brain health and reduce the risk for cognitive decline. These include: 

  • Maintaining good blood vessel health
  • Sufficient sleep
  • Following a Mediterranean style diet
  • Exercise
  • Keeping mentally active

Blood vessel health

The health of our arteries and veins are as important for the health of our hearts and our brains. Smoking, alcohol intake and high levels of salt negatively affect our brain and blood vessel health. Foods that are high in omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin C are particularly good for the integrity of our blood vessels.

Sufficient sleep

Good quality sleep is essential for brain health. While we sleep, our brains clear out the amyloid plaques and toxins that build up in our brains. If these are not adequately cleared while we sleep, our risk for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia is much higher. Apart from this function, good sleep helps the brain to consolidate the events of each day and store our memories. Proteins that are rich in amino acids as well as healthy fats help to fuel our brains and keep them functioning well, whereas sugars and refined carbohydrates flood our brains with glucose that can make memory and cognitive problems worse.

Follow a Mediterranean diet

The emphasis of a Mediterranean diet is on whole foods, including olive oil, whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and oily fish. Typically, this lifestyle incorporates much less salt and a lower intake of red meat.


Regular physical activity, especially aerobic exercise, is very beneficial for our brains. Exercise encourages an increased blood flow to the brain. According to Dale Bredesen, an Alzheimer’s expert, sitting is the new smoking. The research shows that sitting is really bad for our brains and for our cardiovascular health. Exercise reduces insulin resistance, which is a key factor in Alzheimer’s disease, it also improves the quality of our sleep, and it is vital for our mood.

Keep mentally active

Physical activity is important, but it is equally important to keep our brains active. Reduce mind-numbing activities like watching TV and try instead to learn new games or skills. Using your non-dominant hand to do activities is also a way to keep your brain active. Otherwise, computerised brain training programs, or bio-feedback treatments, can also be used where necessary.


Listen to my interview with Brad Kirsten from Radio Cape Pulpit on 15 June 2023 to learn more. Listen to my next interview on Thursday at 7.45am