Body Buzz – The Brain Gain
by Sasha Kanal
Containing billions of nerve cells, the brain is the most complex organ in our bodies, Sasha Kanal explains how to keep it in tip-top condition.
When it comes to taking care of ourselves, much of the focus tends to be on our bodies as we strive to look good, feel good and keep fit. Our minds and mental wellbeing are also well catered for now with mindfulness, meditation and yoga all mainstream options.
But all too often we forget about our physiological brain health and the importance of maintaining this. Although strictly speaking the brain isn’t a muscle, it should be treated as if it were, due to it’s amazing ability to respond to training to improve cognitive function. Medical experts regularly extol the importance of keeping your brain healthy and stimulated to ward off cognitive decline and related illnesses. Remember – use it or lose it!
Read on for some key ways to keep the old grey matter in tiptop condition:
1. Exercise, exercise, exercise
You know me, exercise is the answer to many of life’s ills and of course it helps with brain function too. Increasing the brain’s oxygen levels through exercise encourages a healthy environment for brain cell repair and regeneration. Any activity will be beneficial but one that involves coordination too (such as dance) keeps the brain on its toes and processing the next movement.
2. You are what you eat
It’s not just our bodies that benefit from a diet rich in antioxidants, wholegrain fibre and lean protein; healthy eating has been proven to slow mental decline too. Blueberries don’t make the ‘Superfood’ list for nothing. Studies have shown the fruit can protect the brain from oxidative stress. Salmon is rich in omega three essential fatty acids – a great anti-inflammatory boost for the brain and avocados are packed with B vitamin known as folate, which helps blood flow, memory and concentration.
3. Challenge yourself
Learning something new or doing it for the first time can build neural pathways in our brain. These new connections build up a reserve that can provide contingency against future brain cell loss. Mentally stimulating activities include doing a crossword, maths puzzle or even learning a new language. Hobbies that require some manual dexterity such as crafts, drawing and painting can also help.
4. Sleep well
New research indicates that sleeping less than seven hours a night has been linked to memory loss and cognitive decline. Chronic sleep deprivation has been shown to permanently damage neurons, as during the deeper stages of sleep, chemicals that help repair the brain are released. Even more intriguing is a new finding, which suggests the brain has a complex drainage system, which clears out toxins during sleep and recycles them. Furthermore underlining how imperative a good night’s sleep is for us all.
So there you have it – take care of your brain and it will take care of you.