Lifestyle Solutions for a Happy Healthy You!

The 3 Keys to a Healthy Brain

 

 

We all have those moments–a forgotten appointment, a name we can’t recall, a  word that’s on the tip of our tongue. For the most part, these incidents don’t  worry us. However, as we age, they seem to increase in significance. We wonder  if we’re losing our edge. With Alzheimer’s disease and dementia constantly in  the news, we can find ourselves falling prey to a climate of fear that plays on  our worst anxieties about losing our cognitive capacities.

Luckily, there are a number of steps we can take to preserve our mental  sharpness. Like any other organ, the brain responds to input. Not just mental  and emotional input, but diet and exercise, as well. Many of the strategies we  adopt to maintain overall health also support the brain. We can keep that mental  acuity, and it only takes a few simple brain-friendly habits.

 

For a healthy brain, stock up on foods that are rich  in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish, flaxseed, raw nuts and seeds.

1: Brain-Friendly Food and Supplements

One of the brain’s biggest enemies is oxidative stress from excess free  radicals, which are generated by toxins, exercise, illness, stress, and normal  metabolic processes, among other factors. Like a lunchroom bully, free radicals  (atoms or molecules that are short one electron) take what they need from other  atoms. As levels of free radicals increase, one theft leads to another, creating  a cascade of inflammatory chain reactions that can damage cells down to their  DNA.

Antioxidants can help block this cycle, which is why we hear so much about  these super nutrients, and there is a wide variety of sources–foods, herbs, and  supplements–to choose from. Blueberries are a rich source and have been shown to  protect neurons from oxidative stress. Other good antioxidant food choices are  beans, cranberries, artichokes, prunes, and raspberries. Herbs and spices like  sage, rosemary, ginger, and turmeric are chock-ull of antioxidant compounds to  protect the brain and support numerous other areas of health, as well.

Stock up on foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish,  flaxseed, raw nuts and seeds, and grass-fed beef. While omega-3s are more often  touted for their heart-health benefits, they are crucial to brain health, too. A  study published in the journal Neurology found that people deficient in omega-3s  had smaller brains and did more poorly in cognitive tests. The researchers  asserted that omega-3s reduce signs of aging in the brain.

Vitamin E has also been associated with improved cognitive health. In  addition, one study indicated it can help patients recover after a stroke.  Vitamin E is also a potent antioxidant. Be sure to look for the natural form  called d-alpha tocopherol, often found with a blend of mixed tocopherols. Avoid  dl-alpha tocopherol, a form that is synthetic and not well absorbed.

As noted, oxidation can play a big role in damaging neurons, leading to  cognitive decline. One of the most potent antioxidant supplements is a botanical  called honokiol. Derived from magnolia bark, honokiol is 1,000 times more  powerful as an antioxidant than vitamin E and has been shown protect the brain  in numerous ways. Because its molecules are so small, honokiol taken orally is  very easily absorbed, and even has the unique ability to pass through the  blood/brain barrier. This allows honokiol to exert it effects directly on brain  tissue. Honokiol is shown to improve mood, influencing GABA and other  neurotransmitters that help mediate both anxiety and depression. It also is  shown to aid in stroke damage and protect against the amyloid plaque associated  with Alzheimer’s disease.

Another supplement that benefits brain health is curcumin, the active  ingredient in turmeric. In a recent study from the Salk Institute, a drug  derived from curcumin reversed Alzheimer’s disease in mice. This is not an  isolated study. Other research has shown that curcumin influences neuron  creation and enhances memory.

2: Exercise

Multiple studies have shown a close relationship between exercise and  improved brain function. One project found that women over 65 who walked 30  minutes a day slowed their cognitive decline. When measuring mental acuity, the  researchers found that the people who exercised appeared several years younger  than those in the control group, who did not exercise at all.

Another study comparing activity levels and brain health looked at people  over age 70. The more active group was significantly less likely to develop  cognitive problems. The study also helped clarify the types of activities that  promote cognitive health. In addition to “normal” exercise, the researchers  found that simple actions, such as standing up and walking around the room, were  also beneficial.

Other research has shown that exercise can actually increase brain size. One  study used MRIs to compare brain sizes in people who exercised with those who  did not. The group of exercisers did significantly better. Maintaining a larger  brain is important because one of the side effects of aging is reduced brain  volume, which may be implicated in cognitive decline.

 

 

Scientists at UCLA found that meditation increases a  process called cortical gyrification, which helps us retrieve memories, form  decisions, and focus.

3: Meditation

The calming effects of meditation are well documented. However, some research  has shown that the practice actually changes brain architecture. Scientists at  UCLA found that meditation increases the folding in the cerebral cortex, a  process called cortical gyrification, which improves the brain’s ability to  process information. Specifically, increased gyrification helps us retrieve  memories, form decisions, and focus.  (Leesa recommends Dahn Yoga.  Visit a Dahn Yoga Center near you and discover the benefits of Meditation www.dahnyoga.com.)

 

To me, the most striking aspect of these recommendations is their  applicability to overall health. Diet, appropriate supplements, exercise, and  meditation also benefit heart health, and they can reduce the risk of cancer,  diabetes, and metabolic syndrome–plus, they simply make us feel better. In the  big picture, good practices support health at all levels, forming a foundation  for mind-body wellness, longevity, and vitality.

By guest blogger Isaac Eliaz, MD, MS, LAc, integrative medicine  pioneer

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Thank you for visiting!  I believe that Excellent Health is found along your journey and not just at your destination. Would it make sense for us to spend several minutes together to discuss your Health Issues or Problems and how HealthyHighway can help YOU Live YOUR Optimum Life?   Please complete the information on our Contact Us page to schedule your consultation today!  I look forward to helping YOU Live YOUR Optimum Life!

 

Live Well!

Leesa A. Wheeler

Healthy Lifestyle Coach, Artisan, Author

 

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