Health

12 Ways to Boost BDNF and Age-Proof Your Brain

Evidence Based Article 📄
This article has been based on relevant and up-to-date scientific studies. Our writers are unbiased and objective and present the facts as they are known. Numbers in brackets within the article refer to sources included in the reference list at the end of the article.

BDNF, or Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor, is a crucial neurotrophic factor that controls plasticity and maintains the survival of the cells in the brain. Any abnormal signals of BDNF play a significant role in development of various disorders and diseases, including from Alzheimer’s disease and depression.

Studies show that BDNF is mainly active in the forebrain, cortex, and hippocampus. These are the areas essential for memory, learning, critical thinking, and long-term memory. BDNF also plays a key role in neuroplasticity, letting the nerve cells in the brain compensate for the changes in the environment, new situations, or injury.

However, BDNF isn’t active in your brain’s areas. It’s also expressed in the saliva, retina, kidneys, motor neurons, and even the prostate. That’s why maintaining good BDNF is vital to your whole body. As you age, BDNF decreases so keep these tips in mind to boost your BDNF and keep your brain young longer.

1.Ditch sugar

You might be sick and tired to hear that but you have to stop eating sugar and any food containing it to promote your overall health.

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Consuming sugar and high fructose foods can directly curb BDNF production and link to significant cognitive decline. Sure, it doesn’t mean that you must forget about sweet treats. Reduce your sugar consumption or swap it for alternative natural sweeteners, such as raw honey, stevia, or coconut sugar.

2.Work out

One of the most effective ways to increase BDNF is regular exercise. You don’t have to spend hours in the gym, though. A daily 30-minute walk or a few stretches may contribute to your overall brain health.

A study conducted by the University of Dublin, Ireland, showed that high-intensity workouts helped male college students who led sedentary lifestyles increase the BDNF levels and improve the memory.

A number of other studies suggest that regular exercise helps to release FNDC5, a protein that has an ability to boost the BDNF levels by 200-300%. Moderately intense cardio and strength training can increase BDNF, but the effect doesn’t last for long, which is why it’s crucially important to move your body all the time.

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3.Get enough sleep

Sleep deprivation has an adverse effect on the entire body. When you don’t get an adequate amount of sleep, your BDNF levels drop and this leads to serious consequences and diseases, including stroke, heart disease, and even cancer. Sleep disorders, including insomnia, result in the higher stress vulnerability and the decreased risk of mental disorders.

Sleep is considered as a key mediator at the connection between BDNF and stress. Whether sleep is disturbed or maintained might explain why some people have trouble coping with a certain stress load and thus end up developing a mental disorder.

Be sure you go to bed before 11 pm each day and get at least 7 hours of sleep. This will help you maintain a healthy level of BDNF, reducing your stress levels and warding off mental disorders.

4.Keep stress and anxiety at bay

Nowadays, we all are prone to stress and anxiety – especially if you live in the big city. Managing stress and taming your panic attack might help you improve your BDNF and boost your brain function.

People who are stressed out, fatigued, anxious, exhausted, and sleep deprived are more prone to develop cognitive function decline. So if you want to keep your brain young, stay calm in the stressful situations and learn to deal with your panic attacks in a healthy way. For instance, try a meditation.

5.Meditate

Not only does meditation help you relax, sleep better, and feel better, but it can also boost your BDNF in a healthy way.  Meditation aids in strengthening certain areas of your brain that correlate with body awareness, pain tolerance, memory, meta-thinking, happiness, emotional control, and many other feelings.

You don’t need to meditate for 30 minutes and more, even a 5-minute meditation can greatly contribute to your BDNF level and promote optimal health. Consider combining aromatherapy with your meditation sessions for a more powerful effect.

6.Try intermittent fasting or detox

The research done by the Gerontology Research Center, in Maryland, USA, suggested that intermittent fasting may also boost BDNF. Intermittent fasting is the act of giving your guts a rest every now and then, which triggers a large number of hormonal events in the body that increase the entire body’s repair mechanisms.

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Some studies claim a whole body detoxification once a year can have a similar effect on your BDNF level, as a detox is all about eliminating foods that cause allergies as well as sugary and processed foods.

6.Enjoy the sun

Some sun exposure is safe to you, so make sure you get some sun each day. It’s recommended to spend from 15 to 30 minutes in the sun to increase BDNF. Don’t forget to apply your sunscreen in advance to avoid sun burns and skin cancer.

Many people believe that vitamin D supplementation can help them improve their brain function, but studies show the quite astonishing results. In reality, vitamin D supplementation can reduce the BDNF levels.

7.Improve your diet

As mentioned above, it’s important to eliminate sugar and processed foods from your diet if you’re looking to boost BDNF and age-proof your brain. Avoid eating the foods high in sodium as well. Use natural herbs and spices instead of salt when cooking. Curcumin is particularly good for your brain health. Not only does it help to protect your brain, but also helps to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Moreover, include berries (blueberries in particular) and red grapes into your daily diet. They’re a good source of resveratrol, which has been shown to increase BDNF. Plus, anthocyanin found in blueberries has been proven to boost the BDNF levels.

8.Increase your intake of the omega 3 fatty acids

Omega 3 fatty acids boost brain function and improve BDNF levels. Fish is definitely one of the richest sources of omega 3s, but if you’re vegan you must be extra careful. Increase your intake of flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, hemp seeds, beans, seaweed, leafy greens, winter squash, cabbage, melons, wild rice, and berries. These are some of the best vegan-friendly sources of omega 3 fatty acids.

9.Stimulate your mind

Mental stimulation literally means giving the brain an efficient work out to keep it sharp and healthy. It turns out, mental stimulation can boost your BDNF levels as well.

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There are many mental stimulating games available today that you can take advantage of. Reading and drawing are other options. Puzzles are great as well. Whatever game you choose, just make sure it will work on all aspects of your brain.

10.Avoid drinking alcohol

A glass of red wine or beer once in a while won’t affect your BDNF, but excessive drinking can drastically ruin it and increase your risk of dementia and other mental disorders. The same goes for cigarettes – ditch tobacco in all its forms. To keep it short, quit any of your bad habits to keep your brain healthy and young for longer.

10.Smile and laugh

Laughing stimulates the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine that serves as your brain’s reward and creates a feeling of euphoria, making you happy.

Most importantly, it helps to increase the BDNF levels as well as improve the immune functioning, reduce stress, improve your cardiovascular health, increase tolerance for pain, tame anxiety, and elevate your mood. Laughing can also make you smarter. Doesn’t it a critical reason to smile and laugh rather than frown and stress in the hard situations?

Now that you know how to boost your BDNF and overall mental health, reconsider your lifestyle and see what you should change today in order to live a longer and healthier life. When your BDNF levels are high, it’s much easier for you to acquire new knowledge, feel less depressed, and become happier.

Unfortunately, it’s not easy to determine whether your BDNF level is high or low. In most cases, people with the decreased BDNF experience frequent mood swings, sleep disorders, intense cravings, a trouble learning new things and remembering the old ones. When ignored, a very low BDNF can lead to Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease. Living a healthy lifestyle can prevent the BDNF drop, but it’s best to check your levels regularly by visiting a specialist or your family doctor.

References:

  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3448146/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21722657
  • http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2095254614001161
  • http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0076050
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12558961
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