Caring For Your Brain – Part 1
We have thought about caring for our body. We have always been conscious of our physical fitness, but have we ever thought about out mental fitness? We would like to say yes but do we really?
The brain weights only 3 lbs and it is a fatty, gelatinous lump of muscle. But did you know that this tiny muscle consumes up about 25% of our oxygen, takes up 25% of our total blood flow, utilizes 40% of the nutrients we intake and uses up 80% of our total glucose? It also has 100,000,000,000 neurons and 100,000,000,000,000 to 500,000,000,000,000 connections. Knowing that, you'd probably say: "Wow." Not so bad for a small lump of muscle.
But unlike our other muscles which we can see, the brain is cocooned inside our skull making it easy for us to take it for granted. Given that our brains is directly affected with what we eat and what we do to our selves, we must be careful about our diet and the things we do.
The Aging Brain
As we age, our brains change with us. But contrary to popular belief, memory loss and senility need not be part of aging. As we reach our golden ages of 60 or 70, changes begin to occur including some amount of shrinkage, thinning of the cortex, a decrease in our brain's white matter, and a decrease in neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers of our brains. But these changes are not because we are losing brain cells but more on decreasing synapses in the brain and these need not be permanent. While lost synapses may not be recoverable, with proper diet, exercise and mental activities we may forestall senility and still retain our faculties well into our seniority.
There are things we can do to keep our brain healthy and keep get the best out of life for as long as we can. Whether young or old, we can take these steps to care for our minds and live long fulfilling lives.
The Brain and Body Connection
Fortunately, caring for our brains can coincide with making our body fit. Exercise increases blood flow and helps to keep the heart healthy. A strong pumping heart ensures good blood flow especially to the brain which ensures that your neural pathways and connections are kept intact and strong. Aerobic exercise is the best you can do for your heart and brain. It will improve your sleep, increase your energy and ward off depression. Swimming is another good exercise, giving you a whole body workout without strain on your joints and risk of injury. Also, there is a calming effect in the act of floating on water that could calm your mind and let you give a chance for clear thinking.
Aside from exercise, a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables and complex carbohydrates like whole grains give the brain the nutrients it needs to function. Nuts, seeds, beans, chicken, fish and turkey, on the other hand, supply our grey matter with its much needed protein and essential fatty acids. Fish especially have the Omega 3 fatty acids that is needed by the brain, but be careful of eating too much tuna, as these fish are more likely to have ingested mercury from the water and may be detrimental to your health. You may get your Omega 3 from sardines, herring and wild salmon.
While fatty acids like O-3 are good, trans fat is not. Avoid them since they harden your cell membranes that could lead to arteriosclerosis, thus in turn, slow down your brain as blood vessels are constricted, decreasing blood flow to the brain.
Another important thing to remember is to maintain your blood glucose level as well as your weight. Even if our body has its own natural glucose-insulin regulation system, we can easily disrupt it with what we eat. Too much sugar can damage the brain. Though fruit juice is healthy, don't drink too much of it as it is pure sucrose. Better opt to eating whole fruits and eat more cruciferous veggies, like cabbage. Also, stock up in protein as the liver store this a glycogen which will then be turned into glucose should the body need it. Also remember that excess fat wreaks havoc into your blood sugar level and could lead to diabetes. Not to mention that people who are obese in their middle age is 74% more likely to develop dementia; and high cholesterol and high blood pressure can more than double your risk of Alzheimer's Disease. Keep a healthy body weight, eat right and be good to your body. Your brain will thank you for it.
Warren Tattersall has been a full time nutritional consultant for over a decade and works with people all over the world to help them improve their health, increase their personal energy levels and to use supplements to assist with diet related health issues.
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