What is Mental Acuity? & Best Tips to Improve Mental Acuity
Photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash
Aging is a natural part of life, and with that comes a decrease in mental acuity and sharpness. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. There are quite a few changes that can be made to ensure that you don’t go down the path of accelerated cognitive decline. In this article we discuss a few updates you can make to your diet, sleep, exercise, and how different supplements, brain games, and brain exercises can help boost your memory, focus, concentration, and keep you mentally sharp over the years.
What is Mental Acuity?
Mental acuity, or mental sharpness is the person’s ability to focus and concentrate, recall information, understand it, and process information quickly. As we age, mental acuity can decline and is often referred to as cognitive decline. This happens naturally, however environmental and lifestyle factors can also take a huge toll, often leading to brain and age related disorders such as alzheimers, dementia, and parkinson’s. Older people are also affected by decreased mental acuity when they feel symptoms of brain fog after any type of surgery.
Why should you care about increasing mental sharpness?
The reason why mental acuity and a sharp mind are so important is because it determines our ability to move through the world safely and effectively, and majorly impacts our communication as well. When we can remember what we’re doing, stay present in the moment, and process information quickly, we’re more equipped to get our needs met without encountering conflict.
If you want to build a successful career, get through school, or run a business, you probably won’t be able to limit mentally-draining tasks or escape making tough decisions, but there are definitely steps you can take to keep your mind as focused and sharp as possible in spite of the challenges it faces.
Tips to Increase Mental Acuity
A poor diet can have detrimental effects on many aspects of neurological function and health. A diet high in saturated fat and processed foods and low in essential nutrients and minerals, can lead to anxiety, depression, severe fatigue, and even brain atrophy and brain disease. Conversely, good nutrition can combat the natural decline in brain health. Therefore, here are some key ingredients to prevent a fast decline in your brain health:
Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash
- Dietary Lipids: If you’re a fan of fatty fish, you’re in luck. Salmon, mackerel, and cod play a huge role here, as well as eggs, avocados, and non-hydrogenated oils.
- Carotenoids and Flavonoids: These antioxidants can be ingested through yellow and orange fruits and vegetables. Examples include corn, guava, mangoes, mustard, collard greens, pumpkin, squash, tangerines, and watermelon. They’re known to reduce oxidative stress and free radicals throughout the body.
- Iodine: Get your iodine through Himalayan sea salt, kelp, and unprocessed table salt.
- Iron: Iron deficiencies are associated with decreased oxygen delivery to the brain, which leads to decreased focus, attention, and overall neurological function and brain health. To increase iron, intake nuts, eggs, fish, legumes, and lean meat.
- Protein: Proteins aid in the production of peptide-based neurotransmitters, including dopamine, noradrenaline, glycine, and tryptophan, which converts to serotonin. Low levels of these neurotransmitters lead to depression, anxiety, and bipolar mood swings. Examples of healthy protein sources include meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, and legumes.
- Folate: Also known as vitamin B9, deficiencies of folate are associated with brain atrophy. Folate is found primarily in leafy greens, broccoli, asparagus, nuts, beans, peas, and grains.
- B12: Usually not found in plant based foods, Vitamin B12 can be found in fish, meat, poultry and eggs. It’s deficiencies are also associated with brain atrophy.
- Vitamin D: As most of us know, Vitamin D can be acquired through sunlight, however there are a few foods that allow us some intake. These include fatty fish, and can also be found in egg yolks.
- Essential Fatty Acids: Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, found in fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, cod, oysters, trout, tuna, and halibut.
Photo by Vladislav Muslakov on Unsplash
With work related stress, and so much late night netflix, our sleep hygiene is taking quite a hit. A lack of proper sleep can cause obesity, heart disease, and alzheimers. Here are a few ways to improve your quality of sleep:
- Avoid Light: Close all your blinds, remove your cell phone and tablet, and do not watch TV at least 20 minutes before sleep.
- Keep the room cool: Lowering your body’s core temperature will allow you to enter REM sleep much faster.
- Watch your caffeine: Caffeine elevates your blood pressure and heart rate, therefore do not consume caffeine many hours before bed time. Research has varied to 6-8 hours before bedtime.
- Workout: Working out hard will prompt the body to need more recovery. Your body will therefore make more of an effort to enter deep sleep, and more likely to stay that way. However, just like caffeine, make sure to not workout 4-6 hours before bedtime, as your energy levels can increase after a workout, thereby increasing the time it will take to fall asleep.
Photo by Free To Use Sounds on Unsplash
Regular exercise can strengthen your body and your mind! With dopamine the “feel good” hormone being released every time you work out, your brain is getting a natural boost. Workouts can help reduce stress, elevate your mood, and even lower your risk of chances of getting depression. Any different types of workout will help here, from HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), to weight training, to aerobic exercises such as walking and running, or even breathing exercises including meditation and yoga.
There are quite a bit of micronutrients that we may miss, no matter how consciously we are eating. Therefore, supplements can make up for these deficiencies. Visiting a functional and integrative medicine doctor who can help you discover which ones work best for you is recommended.
- Fish oil: As mentioned in the diet section, omega-3 and omega-6 are essential fatty acids that your brain needs. They keep stress under control, and have shown to improve serotonin levels which has a positive effect on people with depression.
- Bacopa Monierri: Also known as the water hyssop, Bacopa Monnieri is an herb which can improve mental acuity, focus, and cognitive function. Unlike other supplements taken to support brain health, it does not have any age-specific effects and can therefore be taken by adults throughout any stage of life.
- Gingko Biloba: Gingko Biloba, also known as the maidenhair tree, has gained the attention of researchers for its suspected ability to improve mental acuity. It’s a natural anti-oxidant and an anti-inflammatory.
- Ashwagandha: Ashwagandha can help your body manage stress. Ashwagandha also provides numerous other benefits for your body and brain. For example, it can boost brain function, lower blood sugar and cortisol levels, and help fight symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Photo by Free To Use Sounds on Unsplash
Now here’s a fun way to keep your brain sharp. There are quite a few games that you may have played in the past, or play today that help boost memory, focus, and overall cognitive function. These games include solving puzzles, playing card games, learning a new skill. Additionally, playing music, taking a new route to work, or in your regular walk, and learning a new language are great ways to boost your mental acuity.
Ultimately, it’s okay to walk away from any task you’re doing to take a mental break. Simply get up, and get away from your desk. Whether it’s to take a walk outside, to go talk to someone, or just go sit on your couch. The change of scene will give you a mental lift. It is not time wasted, instead it’s an investment to provide you with greater clarity and focus.
As we decline in age, we don’t have to decline in our cognitive abilities. You can also follow these mental alertness tips which will also help you to increase your brain power. Mental acuity and keeping your mind sharp can be achieved. With the proper diet, sleep, exercise, supplement regimen, and keeping your mind active through brain games and exercise, you don’t have to fall victim to alzhiermers and dementia.
- 1. Kutscher SJ. Sleep and Athletic Performance. Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine. 2017. doi:10.1016/b978-0-323-24288-2.00064-7.
- 2. Healthline. 2020. How To Improve Memory: Power, Concentration, Retention, And Focus. [online] Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-improve-memory#1 [Accessed 2 August 2020]
- Kutscher SJ. Sleep and Athletic Performance. Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine. 2017. doi:10.1016/b978-0-323-24288-2.00064-7.
- Healthline. 2020. How To Improve Memory: Power, Concentration, Retention, And Focus. [online] Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-improve-memory#1 [Accessed 2 August 2020]