Brain Health

Cognitive function is at the head (pun intended!) of our overall physical and mental health.

The keys to getting the brain in tip-top shape are not as complicated as you may think. In fact I am sure you have heard of these health topics of interest before:

1. Physical activity
2. Mental activity
3. Balanced diet
4. Social engagement

A little about the Brain:

Our brains are fascinating! As we repeat experiences, the brain forms patterns of activity that code for our memories, reactions, thoughts and skills, all of which ultimately shape who we are. Repeat experiences are just another way of saying habit. Changes in habit will illicit changes in these brain patterns and codes.

There are different areas in the brain coding for hearing, speaking, thinking, reading, and acting; each has its own set of memories and skills.

In other words, our brain health is formed by what we repeatedly do.

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Our Brains at their Healthiest:

Physical activity: Regular body movement improves the reaction and response of the brain’s nervous system.

Mental activity: Memory recall, visualization, sequencing and problem solving are a few ways to engage the brain. Regular brain stimulation outside of its normal everyday use will ensure it continues to function at a high level. Challenging the brain in these ways has been shown to offset age related cognitive decline.

Examples= puzzles, art, games, taking a class to learn something new…

Here is a link for free Games For the Brain

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Balanced diet: There are nutrients that stimulate brain activity and decrease potentially damaging inflammation in brain tissue. These include polyphenols, a group of phytochemicals found in fruits and veggies, spices and herbs, as well as omega-3 oils found in fish, flax, chia, hemp seeds, walnuts and avocados.

Social engagement: Studies have shown that brain function improves with regular, positive social interactions.

THE TAKEAWAY

Get your friends and family together OVER ZOOM, HANGOUT or FACETIME (for safe and proper distancing of course) for a night of  Charades and Monopoly; dish up some fish tacos with coleslaw and guacamole (it was just Cinco de Mayo after all) and you have yourself a winning combination for keeping your brain and body healthy and happy!

Engage in the above habits on a daily basis for best brain results.

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Resources:
Fernando Gomez-Pinilla & Charles Hillman, The Influence of Exercise on Cognitive Abilities. Compr Physiol 2013 Jan;
3(1): 403-428. Online at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3951958/
Tytus Murphy, Gisele Pereira Dias & Sandrice Thuret. Effects of Diet on Brain Plasticity in Animal and Human
Studies: Mind the Gap. Neural Plast. 2014; online at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4037119/
Teresa Seeman, Dana Miller-Martinez, Sharon Stein Merkin, Margie Lachman, Patricia Tun & Arun Karlamangla.
Histories of Social Engagement and Adult Cognition: Midlife in the U.S. Study. Journal of Gerontology B Psychol Sci
Soc Sci. 2011 July; 66B. Online at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3132769/
Mental Health Foundation; mentalhealth.org.uk

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