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Boost Your Brain Health After TBI

Discover ways to improve your cognitive health

Veteran and granddaughter joining two jigsaw puzzle pieces

After a traumatic brain injury (TBI), everyone's brain heals differently. Recovery time may vary, and symptoms can include headaches, clumsiness, memory loss, and mood swings. Most TBI symptoms improve with time, and there are ways you can actively care for your brain's health.

A TBI could be the result of an accident, injury, fight, or fall. For many Veterans who served in times of conflict, a blast injury is often the cause of TBI. If you have been diagnosed with a TBI, recovery includes incorporating steps to optimize your overall brain. In fact, many are good habits that will improve your well-being. Simple steps to a healthier brain include:

  • Eat healthy - Be sure to eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Foods rich with B vitamins and antioxidants help to improve and maintain brain function.

  • Regular exercise - Try to get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercises, such as brisk walking. This will increase blood flow to the brain and help improve the health of brain tissue.

  • Get more sleep - Being tired during the day can make your TBI symptoms worse. Try to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night to feel energized, improve your mood, and stay focused.

  • Don't smoke - Smoking damages your blood vessels and increases your risk of stroke and other brain disorders.

  • Manage stress - Try relaxing with meditation or yoga to manage your stress levels better. Stress can harm brain functions, such as memory, mood, and anxiety.

  • Protect your head - Avoid dangerous activities, and always wear a helmet when riding your bike or playing a sport.

  • Avoid alcohol - Drinking alcohol can worsen TBI-related symptoms and slow down the healing process.

Exercise your brain

Just like your body needs physical exercise, your brain needs mental exercise. Engaging the brain every day helps it stay alert and active. Challenge your mind with crossword puzzles, Sudoku, and card or board games. There are also many computer games that you can play by yourself or with others.

Keep your team up-to-date

Let your health care team know about any short or long-term memory problems you have. If you have a Premium My HealtheVet account, you can also send your health care provider any questions or concerns with Secure Messaging (sign in required). Be sure to alert your doctor if your symptoms get worse. Veterans can also better monitor their blood pressure, cholesterol, and other vitals online with the Track Health feature. View and share your progress with your health care team.

Read More

Living Well After a Traumatic Brain Injury (Veterans Health Library)

Improving Cognition After Traumatic Brain Injury (Veterans Health Library)

Understanding Traumatic Brain Injury (Polytrauma/TBI System of Care)

Mild TBI Symptom Management Fact Sheet: Healthy Sleep (Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center)

Updated September 23, 2019