How to increase BDNF: Ways to prevent your brain from aging

How To Increase BDNF

Most of us fear the prospect of losing our precious memories as we age. The question of how to starve off the prospect of dementia is something that increasingly concerns us.  A little, but powerful, brain protein called BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) is the key to keeping your brain away from age-related decline. BDNF is like an upkeep service for our brains that ensures the healing of damaged neurons and the building of new connections.

BDNF is the foundation on which the architectural blueprint of brain health stands. Therefore, learning how to increase BDNF is critical to sustaining a healthy and sound brain as we age. In this post, I’ll leverage my years of experience in this field to provide a deep dive into the domain of BDNF, presenting scientifically proven techniques to increase BDNF naturally and prevent cognitive aging.

Understanding BDNF and Its Importance

Before exploring the ways to increase your BDNF levels, it is important to understand BDNF’s significance.

The Role of BDNF in Brain Health

Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor, more widely known as BDNF, is a growth molecule and peptide (long-chain brain protein). Now you might be wondering, “Brain-derived-neurotrophic-what?” and it’s a true… quite a mouthful. It is because the name comes from something other than a common origin. Rather, “neuro” is a Greek term for “nerve” and “trophis” related to nourishment, food, and growth.”

BDNF is a fascinating element for brain well-being as it strengthens the brain’s potential to adapt to the reactions of new experiences.

The influence of this powerful protein is not just limited to neural processing. Rather, it plays a crucial role in synaptic plasticity. Synaptic plasticity is a method through which neurons nourish their links. Moreover, other than the brain, BDNF is also found in other body areas like blood plasma, saliva, prostate, uterus, heart, lungs, and kidneys.

The higher the production of BDNF, the better neuron survival will be in the brain, leading to improved learning abilities and strong memory preservation. Furthermore, numerous studies have shown that increased levels of BDNF lower the possibility of neurodegenerative issues like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. So, BDNF acts like a guard to protect cognitive ability as we age.

How BDNF Affects Aging and Neuroplasticity

It has been found that BDNF assists in neurogenesis (the production of new neurons from stem cells) within the human brain. Our brain’s ability to rearrange and build new neural links throughout life is called ‘neuroplasticity’, essential for cognitive dexterity.

BDNF is a vital assistant that helps to make our brains adaptable, ensuring we sustain emotional and neuronal well-being while aging.

However, as we age, the natural production of BDNF in the body reduces over time, causing a significant depletion of neuroplasticity. It is because the aging process causes a contraction of gray matter, and a reduced number of synapses, that make it difficult to learn new skills and create and maintain memories. Therefore, understanding and implementing strategies that increase BDNF production is fundamental as a protective shield against cognitive remission due to aging.

Natural Methods to Boost BDNF Levels

How To Increase Bdnf

Increasing your BDNF levels naturally is easily accessible through implementing appropriate lifestyle changes such as exercising, getting quality sleep, and practicing meditation.

Incorporating Regular Exercise

Incorporating regular physical exercise into your daily routine transcends the limit of just health advice; rather, it directly activates BDNF production, which is vital for cognitive improvement. According to research, when you engage in physical exercise your brain significantly increases the production of BDNF.  Moreover, aerobic exercises like jogging, swimming, and cycling are active contributors to BDNF production. These higher levels of BDNF improve cognitive activities like mood regulation and memory maintenance by establishing new neural links.

The Impact of Deep Sleep on BDNF Production

Just like isolation is an external stressor for our body, sleep depravity acts in the same way. The quality of your sleep determines how well BDNF is produced. Sleep has stages. So, the deep stage of sleep is also like the recovery phase, when our brain transcends the limits of rest and rejuvenates and rearranges itself. In this stage of sleep, a higher production of BDNF is seen, which is critical for memory strengthening.

Meditation Techniques That Enhance BDNF

Stress has a detrimental impact on BDNF production. It’s not surprising, therefore, that meditation can reverse the brain-related effects of stress by increasing BDNF. Meditation is a proven strategy to raise BDNF production. Meditation techniques like concentrated attention meditation and mindfulness are specifically found to be effective in increasing BDNF concentrations.

Nutritional Strategies for Increasing BDNF

Along with natural methods, you should try a few nutritional strategies to boost your BDNF production. According to studies, there are some vitamins and minerals that directly impact your BDNF levels. Incorporate these dietary changes into your lifestyle to experience positive changes in your life.

Essential Vitamins and Minerals for BDNF Synthesis

The intake of certain minerals and vitamins directly influences the composition of the Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF).

Vitamins like B6, B12, and folic acid are the lead actors that are said to play a critical role in our mental well-being. They serve by helping to strengthen nerve activity and supporting the creation of BDNF and neurotransmitters.

However, our brain’s hippocampal functioning and BDNF levels are also directly influenced by zinc. Therefore, it is recommended you consider nutritional advice from your medical professional towards enhancing your cognitive processing.

Polyphenols and Their Effect on BDNF

Another amazing source that positively increases BDNF are polyphenols. A naturally found class of compounds that is excessively present in foods like green tea, berries, and dark chocolates are called polyphenols. These compounds are found to have antioxidant qualities. According to studies in National Library of Medicine, these antioxidants work to activate BDNF in your brain. Additionally, polyphenols play a vital role in reducing inflammation and oxidative stress, leading to important contributors to cognitive decline and aging.

Lifestyle Changes for Sustained BDNF Improvement

If you’ve recently engaged in sedentary lifestyle changes, don’t panic. You can make some lifestyle changes to attain better BDNF levels. Make these changes in your life to see positive results.

Sunlight Exposure and Its Benefits for BDNF

Spending some time in sunlight not only boosts your mood but also helps produce Vitamin D. Vitamin D is a powerful component that increases BDNF production. Your few minutes of exposure to the sun regularly induces significant changes in mood, neural flexibility, and mood. When our bodies get exposed to sunlight, they produce Vitamin D, which not only increases BDNF production but contributes to the absorption of calcium for healthy bone. Consequently, it improves mental promptness and cognitive processing. According to a recent study, the time spent in the sun during summer and spring increases BDNF as compared to time spent in winter and fall. Additionally, researchers also noticed that people were more depressed during winter and and at the same time it was revealed their BDNF levels were low.

Reducing Stress Through Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques

When you’re stressed, it’s going to affect BDNF production detrimentally, leading to poor learning, memory, and brain wellness. Therefore, incorporating some relaxation techniques like slow breathing activities, yoga, and mindfulness meditation counteracts the negative impact of stress and serves to restore BDNF levels.

Identifying and Avoiding BDNF Inhibitors

As particular lifestyle changes help boost BDNF production, your preferences for certain lifestyle choices can decrease the levels of BDNF. Environmental factors also play a crucial role in hindering the synthesis of BDNF. In this regard, our age is the major factor. As we age, the level of BDNF starts diminishing in our brains. It is seen that when the brain and nervous system are in developmental phases, the BDNF levels reach their peak. At an early age, these higher levels help in better learning and motor skill development. In addition to age, other factors are implicated in a reduction in BDNF levels:

  • Excessive intake of alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Lack of Sleep
  • Inactive lifestyle
  • Poor diet
  • Vulnerability to chronic stress

All these factors directly affect BDNF production and impede brain health and cognitive activity. There are contradictory opinions about the influence of tobacco smoking on BDNF levels. However, evidence suggests that heavy smoking decreases BDNF levels.

Furthermore, if you have a history of chronic stress or childhood trauma, this will often negatively affect BDNF. Stress activates the discharge of some hormones, like cortisol, an active contributor to BDNF decline.

Innovative Approaches to Raise BDNF

How To Increase Bdnf

Although lifestyle changes, a healthy diet, and physical activities are great natural ways to boost your BDNF production, innovative approaches – such as the use of bobi – can be an effective and convenient method for maintaining high BDNF levels.

The Use of bobi via Hand Contractions

bobi is an innovative mindful device designed to support the brain in producing higher levels of BDNF via hand contractions. Research has confirmed that rhythmic hand exercises result in increased production of BNDF. bobi also works on the principle of controlled breathing, a critical practice for excellent brain functioning.

Conscious, controlled breathing improves oxygenation and reduces stress, leading to better production of BDNF.

What distinguishes bobi from other such devices is its reliance on a unique feature – hand contractions. You take bobi in your hand, with a strap gently securing the device within your palm.

Crucially, rhythmic hand exercise – the precise physical mechanism associated with bobi’s use – has been shown to dramatically increase BDNF production. This simple solution, easily overlooked among the everyday offers of science and technology, has the capacity to positively impact the lives of any person willing to simply engage with bobi.

As noted by researchers who studied rhythmic hand exercise and BDNF production: … It is an exercise modality that is accessible to most populations, requires minimal equipment, and requires considerably less effort than conventional exercise.

Conclusion

BDNF is a powerful biological catalyst that improves your brain health and boosts cognitive processing. Incorporating some lifestyle choices and techniques like physical exercise, getting adequate sleep, and meditation into your daily life keeps your brain healthy and memory sharp. Increasing your levels of BDNF should remain a key aspect of your health routine, no matter how old you are.  Find the technique to increase BDNF that most suits you and enjoy the benefits of a healthy brain.

bobi _ an innovative mindful device to increase BDNF levels in the body.

Questions:

1- What is the fastest way to increase BDNF?

Studies have found that high-intensity exercise, like jogging and cycling, is the fastest way to boost BDNF production. These kinds of exercises cause an instant spur in BDNF levels, fostering enhanced brain activity and health.

Written by Damien Thomas BA(Psych); GradDipPsych; MPsych(Org), MAPS

Mr. Damien Thomas completed his Master in Organisational Psychology at Macquarie University, Sydney. He has over 20 years’ experience as a psychologist and has specialised in the field of adolescent psychology. Damien also worked within the field of national security, including counter terrorism operations, and war crimes investigations. Through his previous work he has featured in numerous international media publications including: The Australian, The Globe and Mail, New York Times, and BBC (radio).

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