Our brains are made up of billions of brain cells known as neurons which are all connected by branch-like connections, or synapses which are essential to thought. Research has shown that as we age there is a decrease in the weight and volume of our brains, as well as a widening in the gaps between neurons. There is a certain loss of neurons that occurs as a side effect of the natural ageing process, however other factors such as insufficient mental stimulation, poor diet, lifestyle and a lack of social interaction can also speed up the process. Here are our top 5 tips to help you maintain optimal brain health.>> Did you know that our brains have the ability to physically change no matter how old we are! A brain that is 70 years old is just as capable of learning and changing as a brain that is 30 years old <<
1. Exercise Regular exercise, particularly cardio workouts such as running, cycling and anything that increases the heart rate, can increase the amount oxygen-rich blood that is pumped to the brain. This can prevent the delay or loss of cognitive function associated with ageing or Neuro generative diseases. A combination between and healthy diet and exercise has been found to improve common cellular pathways important for neurogenesis, cell survival, synaptic plasticity and vascular function. Not only can exercising protect against ageing and common diseases, but moderate levels of aerobic activity are sufficient to produce significant improvements in cognitive function. Research has found that inactive individuals are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s, compared to those with a high level of activity. Basically, what is good for the heart is good for the brain! Feed it Good Stuff
2.High blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol are all conditions that make life tough for the brain. Eating a balanced and nutritious diet aimed at reducing the risk of developing these conditions will also have indirect health benefits for the brain. Vitamin B6, B12 and folic acid can help to lower homocystine levels, high levels of which have been linked to an increased risk of dementia as well as heart disease. Whole grains such as brown rice, all contain high levels of folate and B vitamins. The brain is particularly susceptible to ROS (reactive oxygen species) for a number of reasons but the primary reason is due to the brains consumption of approximately 20% of the total oxygen in the body even though it only comprises approximately 2% of the total body weight. Therefore, antioxidant rich foods are highly important as they act to neutralise the harmful effects of free radicals. These include brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, whole grains and tea. There are a number of studies that demonstrate the remarkable anti-ageing properties of Green Tea. The tea is a potent antioxidant and contains Green Tea catechins which have been found to protect nerve cells and act against the development of neurodegenerative diseases – particularly Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Thisis believed to be due to the ability of Green Tea to reduce the build up of plaque known as amyloid plaque, which can develop in the brain and acts as a risk factor for the development of these conditions. The neuro protective effects of flavonoids have also been shown in the treatment of age related neurodegenerative diseases.
3. Train Your Brain When you exercise a muscle it gets stronger – this same principle can apply to the brain, it must be kept active or it may atrophy and waste away. Learning and new activities can stimulate new connections between nerve cells and may even help to generate new brain cells and protect again future loss. The process whereby the brain Reading, learning a language, taking a course, doing a puzzle and activities that involve a combination of manual dexterity and mental stimulation are all great ways to grow and strengthen these neuronal connections.
4. Stress Less. Long-term stress, anxiety and depression have been linked with an increased risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, some research suggests that long-term stress stimulates the growth of the proteins that might cause Alzheimer’s, and lead to memory loss. Excess levels of cortisol, a hormone released as a result of the stress response, has also been associated with a shrinking of the hippocampus which is the part of the brain that is needed for certain types of memory. Some simple ways to reduce stress can include exercise, which also has cognitive benefits mentioned earlier, meditation and deep breathing exercises, drinking plenty of water and eating a healthy well balanced diet, limiting alcohol intake getting sufficient sleep. Research has also found that people with a strong support network of friends and family are less likely to suffer from stress related problems.
5. Sleep is essential for our brain to process information, and some studies have shown that by cutting sleep to less than 7 hours per day, cognitive performance can drop from the top 10% to the bottom10%. The average person needs between 7 and 8 hours of sleep per day with the addition of an afternoon nap. There have been a number of studies recently that have looked into the benefits that a nap can have on cognitive function. The results of one study showed that naps between 5-15 minute scan have immediate benefits and last between 1-3 hours, and a nap of 30 minutes or more can result in initial cognitive impairment due to sleep inertia but can proved enhanced cognitive performance over a longer period of time. So take a tip from the Spanish and schedule a siesta!
By Millie from Power Healing