Eating a healthy diet is one of the critical factors in helping both maintain good brain, eye and overall health. Also, the way we eat affects our digestion and how well we are able to breakdown and absorb the essential nutrients in the food we take in. Here are some basic recommendations.
Eat without distractions. Eat slowly without watching TV or being distracted by other activities.
Eat Healthy Foods
Eat a healthy diet. Choose an alkaline diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables that is very low in refined carbohydrates and sugar. Eating poor quality foods leads to poor brain and eye function. Follow the Mediterranean diet,1 or better yet, the MIND diet.2
Try to make juice at least a few times a week. Here’s a general juicing recipe for the brain: (some combination of the following plus your favorite fruits and vegetables, not too many sweet fruits): green, leafy vegetables such as kale, broccoli, red beets, parsley, avocado, apples, blueberries (especially these), strawberry, bilberry, black currant, blackberry, mulberry, goji berries, citrus fruits such as lemon, apple, kiwi, grapes, pomegranate juice, prunes, walnuts, chia seeds, yogurt, ginger and honey.
Go to Bed a Bit Hungry
Finish eating hours before bedtime. The gallbladder and liver (meridians in Chinese medicine) are most active between 11:00pm-3:00am and if the body’s energies are being used for digestion, their repair function will not be at an optimal level. In Chinese medicine, the Liver meridian “opens to the eyes,” so is the primary energy flow for overall eye health, so from a Chinese medical perspective, the peak eye repair goes on from 11pm – 3am in the morning.
Maintain consistent furniture locations and daily patterns if you have vision or memory problems.
Reduce anxiety with meditation. Some forms of meditation daily will lower cortisol levels and halt “flight and fight” mode. Three studies reviewed all reported significant findings or trends towards significance in a broad range of measures. They included a reduction of cognitive decline, reduction in perceived stress, increase in quality of life, as well as increases in functional connectivity, percent volume brain change and cerebral blood flow in areas of the cortex.
Daily practice of meditation helps improve attention, reduce depression, improve sleeping, cognitive function, and neural circuitry, and even increases grey matter in parts of the brain responsible for muscle control, and sensory perception such as seeing and hearing, memory, emotions, speech, decision making, and self-control.
Researchers identify meditation-based interventions with improved quality of life and cognition.3
Reduce anxiety with other relaxation. Set aside at least twenty minutes per day for some mindful relaxation (could be meditation, prayer, yoga, even a walk in the woods). Simply taking a few deep breaths engages the vagus nerve which triggers a signal within your nervous system to slow heart rate, lower blood pressure, and decrease cortisol.
The next time you feel yourself in a stressful situation that activates your “fight-or-flight” response, close your eyes and take ten slow, deep breaths, and feel your entire body relax and decompress. Relax by listening to music. Watch a funny movie.
Be a Friend
Socialize with a friend one or two times a week (can be for a drink, cup of coffee, dinner, movie etc.) In a 2016 study, researchers found that there was a 7.5 times greater risk and association between loneliness and the amount of amyloid deposited in the brain in cognitively normal adults.
Use Your Brain
Keep learning. A 2007 study with twenty-seven Dartmouth college students demonstrated that significant changes are occurring in adults who are learning. The structure of their brains undergoes change in white matter. White matter is composed of bundles, which connect various gray matter areas (the locations of nerve cell bodies) of the brain to each other, and carries nerve impulses between neurons. This includes learning or playing an instrument, learning new subjects, doing daily memory exercises, crosswords, playing chess, etc. Mentally stimulating activities and certain brain-training programs are associated with significant reductions in the risk of dementia in long-term research.4
Get exercise regularly daily or at least 4-5 times per week. Researchers find that exercise improves almost all health conditions, including vision conditions. Exercise is linked to significant reductions in dementia risk. In particular, aerobic exercise is associated with reduced grey- and white-matter brain tissue loss and fewer neurotoxic factors. 5
Interval walking is especially valuable. In this mode of exercise walkers perform three minutes of easy walking and three minutes of regular walking in which heart rates rise to about ninety percent of maximum for one’s condition. Researchers note that after 20 weeks, compared to continuous moderate walking, elderly interval walkers showed significant improvements in both physical endurance and memory performance. The more fit, the more their memory improves.6
Take regular eye exercise breaks from the computer. Symptoms of computer eye strain is the number one complaint eye doctors receive from their patients. Most importantly, take time away from your electronic devices, as computer use is directly linked to many eye conditions, including glaucoma and dry eye syndrome. During those breaks, do some eye exercises.
Make sure your “rest” activities are the opposite of your current preoccupation; the point is to engage your eyes and body in different ways. For example, if you have been sitting, doing close-up work, stand up and stretch, while looking out a window into nature. Better yet, take a walk around the block.
Clean Your Teeth
Practice good oral hygiene. One study reviewed 549 articles on oral hygiene and concluded that older people with dementia had high scores for gingival bleeding, periodontitis, plaque, and assistance for oral care. In addition, candidiasis, stomatitis, and reduced salivary flow were frequently present in older people with dementia.
Cultivate and encourage a positive attitude. Having a positive attitude has been shown to increase one’s average lifespan 7.5 years compared to a negative mental attitude.
- Petersson SD, Philippou E. (2016). Mediterranean Diet, Cognitive Function, and Dementia: A Systematic Review of the Evidence. Adv Nutr. Sep 15;7(5):889-904. ↩
- Morris MC, Tangney CC, Wang Y, Sacks FM, Barnes LL, et al. (2015). MIND diet slows cognitive decline with aging. Alzheimers MIND diet slows cognitive decline with aging. ↩
- Hoffman L, Hutt R, Tsui CKY, Zorokong K, Marfeo E. (2020). Meditation-Based Interventions for Adults With Dementia: A Scoping Review. Am J Occup Ther. May/Jun 2020;74(3):7403205010p1-7403205010p14. ↩
- Cheng ST. (2016). Cognitive Reserve and the Prevention of Dementia: the Role of Physical and Cognitive Activities. Curr Psychiatry Rep. Sep;18(9):85. ↩
- Ibid. Cheng. (2016). ↩
- Okamoto T, Hashimoto Y, Kobayashi R. (2019). Effects of interval walking training compared to normal walking training on cognitive function and arterial function in older adults: a randomized controlled trial. Aging Clin Exp Res. Oct;31(10):1451-1459. ↩
Marc Grossman, Doctor of Optometry and New York State Licensed Acupuncturist is author of several books, including Natural Eye Care – Your Guide to Healthy Vision. Since 1980 Dr. Marc Grossman has helped many people maintain healthy vision and even improve eyesight. He is best described as a Holistic Eye Doctor, dedicated to helping people with such conditions ranging from myopia and dry eyes to potentially vision threatening diseases as macular degeneration and glaucoma. His combined multi-disciplinary approach using nutrition, eye exercises, lifestyle changes and Chinese Medicine provides him with a wide array of tools and approaches to tackle difficult eye problems. Dr. Grossman founded the Rye Learning Center in 1980, a multidisciplinary center for learning problems, in 1996 co-founded Integral Health Associates in New Paltz, New York, and in 1999 co-founded Natural Eye Care, Inc. For more information go to www.naturaleyecare.com or call 845-255-8222.