Give your BRAIN a boost

give your brain a boost

by take-a-break |
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Ensuring your brain is getting a healthy blood flow can help to protect your alertness, mental health and fend off illness. Here's how...

We know that for it to work effectively our brain needs plenty of oxygen, proper hydration and the right nourishment. Despite accounting for only about two per cent of our total body weight, to work at its best, our brain needs 20 per cent of our available blood supply.

When our circulation is poor and our brain doesn’t get the steady flow of oxygen and nutrients that it needs, a whole host of problems can arise.

Poor cerebral blood flow is linked with cognitive decline, low mood and can even result in vascular dementia.

So, what can we do to ensure our brain is getting the blood flow that it needs?


Exercise is great for increasing blood flow to our brains. One study found that moderate aerobic exercise, or brisk walking 30-50 minutes, three or four times a week, may improve blood flow to the brain by as much as 15 per cent.

James Hilton, personal trainer and founder of Jim’s Gym, says: ‘Any exercise which increases your heart rate is going to help. The key is simply to find something that you enjoy doing and to start doing a little bit more than you already are, even if that’s just for 10 minutes. For one person that might be going for a walk with a friend at a pace where you can just about hold a conversation. For another, it might be doing aerobic exercise such as dancing or swimming. The more often you move and get your heart rate up, the better for your brain.’

Increase Omega-3

Sarah Mallinson, nutritional therapist and founder of Pine Health and Nutrition, says: ‘Foods like oily fish, seafood, flax seeds, chia seeds and walnuts, which are rich in Omega-3, may help improve blood flow to the brain and have been shown to increase our learning and cognitive well-being.

‘Nitrate-rich foods, such as beetroot, rocket, spinach and other dark leafy green vegetables, help increase our levels of nitric oxide, which dilates blood vessels and can improve blood flow.

‘Polyphenols, which are antioxidant-rich compounds found in plant foods, may also improve cerebral blood flow so it’s also worth including dark chocolate, green tea, berries, apples and citrus fruits in our diet.

‘Finally, dehydration can impair blood flow to the brain so ensure you’re drinking lots of water throughout the day.’

Try cold showers

Studies have found that short bouts of exposure to cold water may help to improve our circulation.

Anna Parker-Naples, breathing expert and cold water therapist, says: ‘When we’re exposed to cold water, this stimulates a cold shock response, which puts our body into an ‘emergency’ state. The blood vessels near the surface of our skin constrict almost immediately, and oxygenated blood is diverted and sent to our vital organs, especially the brain and heart. Always speak to your doctor before trying cold water therapy, because it won’t be suitable for everyone but, for some, starting with a with a quick 20-second cold blast in the shower and building up from there can have a really positive influence.’

Lower your blood pressure

Dr Luke Powles, Associate Clinical Director at Bupa Health Clinics says: ‘When it comes to lowering blood pressure, managing stress is key because if you’re experiencing regular stress, you may see your blood pressure increase. This can put you at a higher chance of developing health complications such as damage and blockages to your blood vessels, including the ones in your brain.

‘You also want to stop smoking as this can lead to a build-up of fatty deposits within your artery walls, which can cause reduced blood flow.’

Think about the breath

Tim Allardyce, physiotherapist and osteopath at Surrey Physio says: ‘Mindfulness and meditation are good ways to improve circulation and blood flow to the brain. Stress can constrict blood vessels and elevate blood pressure. On the other hand, relaxing using techniques such as mindfulness or deep breathing can help reduce stress and lower blood pressure. Ideally try to do 10-20 deep diaphragmatic breaths through your nose daily.’

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