You know exercise, eating right, and engaging your mind are vital steps for a healthy, well-functioning brain. But how can you hit the gym when just getting out of bed seems like a monumental effort? Even cooking a healthy meal or tackling a simple crossword puzzle might seem overly ambitious for someone struggling with depression.
Depression, after all, alters the brainâ€™s chemistry in a way that reduces a personâ€™s energy level, lowers motivation, reduces the ability to sustain attention, and heightens the perception of pain. It may increase irritability or anxiety, making it hard for people to engage in social activities. Depression has even been shown to shrink the hippocampus, a key part of the brain that plays a vital role in memory and learning. As a result of these brain changes, depressed patients may experience memory lapses, sluggish thinking, or an inability to â€œconnect the dots.â€
The exciting news is that for most people depression is highly treatable. And not just with medication. In addition to medication and therapy there are a host of simple lifestyle changes that can help reduce the symptoms of depression and put you on the path to recovery. As a bonus, many of these changes have also been shown to improve brain fitness, leading to a brain that functions better now and well into old age.
Here are nine brain-boosting tips to help you conquer depression:
Get a checkup. This may seem like a no-brainer, especially if youâ€™ve already been to your doctor for your diagnosis and treatment of depression. But many long-standing health conditions can contribute to reduced brain fitness, while not being the primary cause of your depression. Being overweight, for example, has been shown to reduce brain function and can contribute to depression. It may also lower your ability to exercise, robbing you of a key brain- and mood-booster. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, anemia, thyroid problems, concussions or other brain injuries, stroke and other health problems can all take a toll on brain fitness, as can low levels of Vitamins B12 and D, and testosterone (in men). Getting these conditions under control can help boost your brain, which in turn will put you in the best condition to bounce back from depression.
Check your medications. often patients who have no idea their medications are causing side effects. In particular, medications given for anxiety, insomnia, pain and even depression can cause mood changes, brain fog, or other cognitive and health problems, so itâ€™s a good idea to review your total medication list with your doctor to ensure theyâ€™re not interfering unnecessarily with your brain function or health.
Sleep. Insomnia and sleep apnea, in particular, have been shown to reduce brain function, which can contribute to depression. Many people put up with sleep disorders and incorrectly assume theyâ€™re untreatable. Not only are both conditions often treatable, but treatment can help reverse the damage done to the brain and lead to dramatic improvements in brain function. My sleep apnea patients are often amazed at how different they feel after treatment. And diagnosis is easier than ever before â€“ with a small device provided