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7 Pillars

Our 7 Pillars To A Healthy Brain

Whole Food Diet and Supplementation

Optimal nutrition supports neuroplasticity. Adherence to a healthy diet is imperative in optimizing brain health and cognitive performance as well as reducing the risk of cognitive decline over time. The Mediterranean diet has been studied for years and is considered one of the best dietary models for brain health and longevity. It focuses on primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts, and healthy fats such as olive oil. Research has determined that adhering to a Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and Mild Cognitive Impairment.

Adding Aerobic Exercise

Exercise promotes neuroplasticity. Aerobic exercise may have positive effects on the brain by increasing BDNF, functional connectivity and activation, increasing cerebral blood volume, and increasing gray and white matter of the prefrontal cortex, which plays a significant role in memory, intelligence, and language. With improvements in cognitive structure from aerobic exercise, come improvements in cognitive function.

Sleeping 7-8 hours a night

Deep and restful sleep strengthens neuroplasticity. Recent research has discovered that sleep is the time when the brain removes toxins that accumulate during wakeful hours and can contribute to brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. This is like taking out the brain trash and it occurs because of the “glymphatic” system that uses the brain’s blood vessels to pump cerebral spinal fluid through the brain’s tissues, in effect pumping out garbage that collects during the day. This process takes a lot of energy. We only seem to have this energy during sleep when we are not actively processing wakeful information.

Maintaining Mental Stimulation

Mental activity improves neuroplasticity. You can’t stop exercising your biceps after age 50 and expect them to stay strong for a lifetime. This stands true for your brain, too. Health experts across all fields now commonly advise adults to engage in mentally stimulating activities on a regular basis to keep the mind young.

Expanding Social Interaction

Being around others stimulates neuroplasticity. Cognitive decline and memory loss are typical for the aging population, but not inevitable. While many people look straight toward medicine and pharmaceuticals for brain support, some studies suggest that you should actually be looking toward your friends, instead.

Pay attention to Mental Fitness

Mental fitness maintains neuroplasticity. We seek personal trainers when we want to get physically fit. We seek medical doctors when we have physical illness. We need to seek mental health professionals when we want to improve mental fitness. When needed, treatments have been developed and tested to successfully reduce symptoms for many cognitive health concerns. Recent research suggests that the large majority of people benefit from psychotherapy.

Achieving Regular O3i Monitoring

Optial omega-3 status boosts neuroplasticity. An Omega-3 index (O3i) is a simple blood test that reflects the percentage of Omega-3s compared to the total amount of fatty acids present in the cell membranes of red blood cells. Higher O3i has been correlated with larger total normal brain volume and hippocampal volume in aging populations, suggesting reduced risk of the normal brain atrophy that is commonly seen with aging. Moreover, studies have shown that positive changes in brain structure with higher O3i scores lead to improved brain function and are inversely associated with dementia in older adults.

Julian Bailes, MD

Chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery
at NorthShore University HealthSystem
and Co-Director of the NorthShore
Neurological Institute.

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