Wellness: Don’t forget to exercise your brain

The latest neuroscience research tells us that the health of our body determines the health of our brain.  Poor health, along with medical conditions, can double or even quadruple your risk for decline in memory.  And when symptoms like memory loss or confusion are evident, the lost neuron connections are already at 50-70%.  So a mid-life intervention is the best remedy for late life memory loss.  The brain is fully developed at 20 years of age, and already begins shrinking after 40 years of age, so it’s never too soon to keep brain fitness in mind.

The brain grows and shrinks like a coral reef in response to the environment.  Brain is like a muscle; it can be toned up at any age……..use it or lose it applies to your brain also.     Brain fitness is very similar to physical fitness; it has components like consistent exercise, adequate sleep and good nutrition.  After all, the brain is part of the body and requires the same attention and care for good health.  And then there is that perpetual factor of stress!  It is a fact with brain health that some stress is good, in that it provides a challenge that stimulates new neuron growth.  This stress could be in the form of learning something new, such as a language, dance or skill.  Changing up your routine is highly recommended as once a pattern or habit is acquired, the brain doesn’t need to generate more neurons.  So using your less dominant hand, taking a different route when driving, going about a routine task like cooking in a different order – all of these stretch your learning capacity, and add to brain fitness.

Modulating stress is key.  When there is too much stress, the cortisol damages the neuron connections.  Meditation is recommended to help you relax and focus at the same time.  Functioning in that range of constructive stimulation/challenge without experiencing the damaging stress(cortisol) seems to be the ideal.   Happiness and having a positive outlook add to brain fitness as well.

All of these components – physical exercise, sleep, nutrition, mental stimulation, meditation and relaxation, and happiness – are the recommended ones for physical health.  So we can be confident that taking care of our bodies will also take care of our mind. Now go sing – dance – juggle!  That’s what I do!

Sign up to get regular wellness tips