Healthy Living

Healthy Living, Protecting God's Gifts

Brain Health

Your brain changes as you age.  This is natural.  But the primary mission of your brain never changes.  It's job is to help you make sense of the world and oversee your activities of daily living.
Brain health refers to the ability to remember, learn, plan, concentrate and maintain a clear, active mind.  Brain health is a key part of your overall health.

So when should you start concerning yourself with brain health?  NOW!  By taking steps to keep your brain and body healthy, you can enhance your life now and even help reduce some risks to your brain as you age.

The only constant about your brain is that it's always changing.  Change in brain function is to be expected as you age.  Even after your brain reaches maturity, it's still changing.  This is called "brain plasticity".  As we experience the world, practice habits and learn new information, our brains change, grow new connections and repair broken ones.  As we age, our experiences and knowledge keep our brains working, developing and learning.

Here are 12 ways you can help keep your brain healthy and strong:

1.  Get mental stimulation.
Through research doctors suspect that brainy activities help develop neurological plasticity and reserve that provides a hedge against future cell loss.  Any mentally stimulating activity should help to build up your brain.  Read, take courses,  try mental gymnastics such as crossword puzzles or math problems.  Experiment with things that require manual dexterity as well as mental effort, such as drawing, painting and other crafts.

2. Get physical exercise.
Using your muscles also helps your mind. Regular exercise increases the number of tiny blood vessels that bring oxygen to the region of the brain responsible for thought.  Exercise also spurs the development of new nerve cells and increases the connection between brain cells.  (synapse) This results in brains that are more efficient, plastic, and adaptive, which translates into better performance as we age.  exercise also lowers blood pressure, improves cholesterol levels, fights Diabetes and reduces mental stress all of which can help your brain as well as your heart.

3.  Improve your diet.
Keep your calories in check. Eat the right foods. That means reduce consumption of saturated fat and cholesterol sources which come from meat.  Remember the importance of Vitamin B ( B6, B12 and folic acid).  Foods that are rich in B vitamins include fortified cereal, other grains  and leafy green vegetables. 

 4.  Improve your blood pressure.
Stay lean, exercise regularly, limit alcohol, reduce stress and eat right,

5.  Improve your blood sugar.
Modify your life style to keep your pressure down.  Stay lean, exercise regularly, limit your alcohol, reduce stress, and eat right.
6.  Improve your cholesterol.
Diet, exercise, weight control, and avoiding tobacco will very much help to improve cholesterol levels.  But if you need more help, ask your doctor about medications.
 7. Consider low dose aspirin.
Some studies have suggested that long-term use of aspirin and other non-steroidal anto-Inflammatory  drugs may reduce the risk of developing dementia. The jury is still out on this so be sure to check with your doctor first.
 8.  Avoid tobacco.
Avoid tobacco in all it forms.
9.  Don't abuse alcohol.
Excessive drinking is a major risk for dementia.  If you choose to drink, limit yourself to two drinks per day.  But if you use alcohol responsibly, you may actually reduce your risk of dementia.  At least 5 studies have liked low-dose alcohol with a reduced risk of dementia in older adults.
10.Care for your emotions.
People who are anxious, depressed, sleep deprived, or exhausted tend to score poorly on cognitive function tests. Good mental health and restful sleep are important goals.
11. Protect your head.
You might be surprise to learn that moderate to severe head injury early in life increase the risk of cognitive impairment in old age.  Concussions increase risk by a factor of 10.
12. Build social networks
A study of elderly people suggest positive relationships can help protect against memory loss.
Strong social ties have been associated with lower blood pressure and longer life expectancies.

It's possible to get smarter and more creative after reading this list!  Research suggest people learn more when they believe intelligence isn't fixed.  The bottom line: Believe in the brain.
 Vinnie Ridolfi