How to Maintain a Healthy Brain

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“Physical activity” is usually regarded as the pursuit of exercising the muscles, tendons and joints of the body, and rarely thought of as benefiting our internal organs (outside of the heart).  But this is a limited viewpoint as effective fitness can have a profound impact all of our vital organs, especially the brain.

Researchers now believe that we can work-out our brains by adopting many of the same habits that sustain a healthy body, from focusing on good nutrition and physical fitness to managing stress.

This is important for us because the well-maintained brain is quicker, smarter, less forgetful, and less prone to age-related decline.  Here are several ways to treat the brain real good:

FOOD CHOICES

Roughly 50-60% of the brain’s overall weight is pure fat (the rest of it is a mix of protein and carbohydrates).  The brain uses fat as insulation for its billions of nerve cells.  The better insulated a cell, the faster it sends messages and the speedier your thinking.

For this reason, fats are excellent food for the brain.  But, all fats are not created equal, and it is necessary to educate yourself on which fats will serve the functionality of the brain best.  As a general rule, any source of omega-3 fats such as walnuts, flaxseed, flaxseed oil or dark, leafy green vegetables will help the brain run smoothly.

However, FISH provides the brain with its favorite form of fat: DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).  According to David Perlmutter, co author of The Better Brain Book, “DHA is far and away the most important nutrient for brain health”.  Salmon and Anchovies are excellent sources of DHA.

RELAXATION

Chronic stress takes a heavy toll on the brain because stress hormones (such as corticosteroids) contribute to a general environment of inflammation and attack the brain’s memory center, the hippocampus.

According to researchers, stress is most damaging when you let it eat away at you.  Therefore, it is extremely beneficial to find a way to do something about it.  Deep breathing is an excellent way to relax, as is the practice of meditation which has long been known to alter brain waves.

In fact, recent studies have shown that meditation can change the physical structure of the brain (in a positive way).  Therefore, our thoughts DO play a major role when it comes to the health of our brain.

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ANTIOXIDANTS

The brain produces more free radicals- highly reactive cells that contribute to cell damage- than any other organ.  Antioxidants are the body’s clean-up crew, and work around the clock to scrub the body clean of free radicals.  They are found primarily in fruits and vegetables, and are in great abundance in berries (especially blueberries and Goji berries).

EXERCISE

Working up a sweat is critical for brain health.  “Across the board, exercise increases brain function, memory retention and other key areas of cognition up to 20 percent” says Arthur D. Kramer, PhD,

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neuroscientist at the University of Illinois.

The brain accounts for only 2% of the body’s weight, but accounts for 15% of its blood flow, and regular exercise keeps the brain’s arteries open and unclogged.  New research is suggesting that exercise may actually encourage the brain to make new connections between neurons and build new vascular structures. 

Bottom line, get on that treadmill and lift some weights—it’s good for your brain!

REFINED SUGARS

The brain needs sugar (glucose) for energy.  However, it prefers a nice steady and natural supply of it- the kind you find in fruits and vegetables- not in the refined sugars heaped in energy drinks and candy. 

High sugar foods send a tidal wave of glucose crashing into the bloodstream, overwhelming the body’s ability to store balance.  Habitual ingestion of simple carbs and processed foods causes chronic inflammation, type-2 diabetes, and host of other health problems. 

Needless to say, none of this is good for the brain and it is great practice to limit your intake of refined sugars.

Purposefully flexing the brain muscle through physical activity, proper nutrition, and deep relaxation is a great way to live a longer and healthier life!
 

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18 Responses to “How to Maintain a Healthy Brain”

  1. Wolfie! says:

    How to maintain a healthy brain….

    …. Keep away from Zombies.

  2. Ian says:

    Thanks for the tips Todd. Also, some people talk a lot about Ginkgo biloba for memory improvements. Maybe best left for a different post, I’m curious if you have an opinion on that. Great article.

  3. Askabarr says:

    Recently my partner and I added Omega-3 super concentrate to our diet, EPA400:DHA200. Primarily we eat skinless, boneless chicken breasts,some ham,potatoes and vegetables. Other than these staples we have lots of fruit and just to be sure we take a concentrated B complex and a broad spectrum vitamin/ mineral combo. Neither of us is overweight and I can’t remember when we had colds and/or flu.

  4. Great article!
    I like all you explained in this article.
    I feel with our aging society, a memory regiment will become increasingly needed for both men and women.
    Even high school students these days are having issues remembering their studies come test day.
    Our diet is a huge part and supplements are a large part to boosting your memory
    Well I got to go, I seemed to misplaced my car keys! :-)

  5. Todd says:

    Thanks for the great comments!
    Ian– I am not a big supplement guy, although I have heard a lot of good things about Ginkgo, I will look into it!
    Askabarr– fish oils certainly prevent illness, especially common colds…
    Aging perfectly (love that name)– hope you found your keys!

  6. SootheSayer says:

    Very good rundown for brain health.
    Thanks for wading through the information and presenting it in such a usable way.

    i sometimes wonder if “living in the NOW” absorbs me to the point that I don’t keep information once I’be become absorbed in the next moment.–That’s my story and I’m sticking to it! (I can rationalize anything).

  7. bluskygirl says:

    I have a great Omega supplement, although I must admit I remember to give it to my dog (for glucosamine absorption) more often than myself. :) I love blueberries, but haven’t tried Goji berries… I might have to pick some up some time.

    Nice Post, Todd!

  8. ZHereford says:

    Thanks Todd, for the sound advice on maintaining a healthy brain!

  9. Peter says:

    Nice article Todd. I’m doing most of these already which is a good sign!

  10. Jenny says:

    Todd,
    What funny timing I was actually talking with a friend this morning – a sort of chicken or the egg type of conversation. We were musing over how we used to think one needed to “get their life together” and then things such as getting enough sleep, eating properly, etc. would come easily. I agree taking care of ourselves in all the ways you mention such as stress reduction, proper diet and so forth (I’d also add adequate sleep) have a huge impact on our brain and therefore our mind. The impact of these small things ripples throughout ones life. At least this has been my experience over the last 8 mths or so. Great article!

  11. Naomi says:

    Great post Todd. I work in the complementary health industry and found that very interesting. I heard about Omega 3 being good for brain health and also Ginkgo Biloba is a popular supplement here in England too. Apparently doing crosswords and puzzles – anything that exercise the grey cells a little is good for brain health too. I’m visiting you from the carnival.

  12. [...] 8. Eat Brain “Superfoods” [...]

  13. anna marie says:

    Hi Todd,
    I have pain all the time on my joints and it transfer so fast to one joint to another. My situation is very complicated. Unlike in other country,here in the Philippines we are not provided free medications for R.A.It will cost me thousands of dollars.I think whay you posted will help me a lot. Thanks

  14. Todd says:

    Thank you Anna Marie…although you have a lack in medication, there is no lack of information in cyberspace about holistic and meditative ways you can potentially heal yourself. Be open to more traditional and non-medical remedies…believe they can work. Also, read my article on “brainwave technology”. This might help as well!!
    Todd
    ps, have a happy and healthy new years.

  15. Adie says:

    Hey todd jus read da article n found da article ful o valueale info..
    Had a small quest 4 u .. I used 2 gym quite heavy b4 a year n was on protein suppl( wid da combi o amino acids which was 4 a few days only) i was on a high protein diet n consumption o carbs was moderate n dats wer almost nil.. I continued wid da suppl 4 around 3 months n da results wer quite gud..my body was pumped..after a few days i started feelin very stressed n also felt sumthin wrong wid ma memory too .. My interest started fallin off in almost every thin(even gymmin)..overall felt damn giddy n dumb.. After visitin r family physician, i suddenly stopped supplements n gradully lost al da body mass( upper n lower) dis was da most bad time i exp in my life felt as if i had lost ME sumwher i was findin hard 2 talk wid ppl also..later after a few moths i was eatin everythin (less o proteins n high carbs n moderate fats)..i am eatin almonds regularly n it feels much much better dan da bad patch..da problem is dat i am gaining weight lik mad due 2da lack o workouts.. I tried hittin da weights n da threadmill a couple o times bt after da workout,felt damn giddy n low..plz help over this
    wid warm regards…
    Thanx..

  16. jayesh says:

    thanks for article it good for me, thanks again, have a nice day!

  17. Khantelle says:

    Great One…

    I must say, its worth it! My link, http://donna.blogonsisters.com/,thanks haha…

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