We have known for some time that caloric restriction relates to longevity and functional health in animals. This has been well documented and discussed in previous blogs from Fit brains. However, the issue of whether caloric restriction also benefits humans has been less clear. It’s also obvious and important to note how difficult caloric restriction can be for humans, particularly when such reduction in calories is significant.
Much work is done on the quality of what is consumed when one reviews the many dietary plans offered on the market. Less is focused on the quantity and it is generally true that those living in western nations over-consume. This has resulted in an alarming increase in obesity and diabetes, including a significant number of cases emerging in childhood.
The balance of sugars and insulin in our bodies is very important. An unhealthy balance can lead to diabetes and multiple other medical problems, some of which affect the brain such as stroke and dementia. We now know that what we eat affects both the structure and function of our brain and more attention is now focused on both the quality and quantity of our diets.
Scientists all over the world are starting to agree that stimulating the brain can improve brain power. Numerous studies show that activities such as interactive games can help maintain key cognitive functions.
According to a new study presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 61st Annual Meeting, participating in certain mental activities, like reading magazines or crafting in middle age or later in life, may delay or prevent memory loss. The study involved 197 people between the ages of 70 and 89 with mild cognitive impairment, or diagnosed memory loss, and 1,124 people that age with no memory problems.
The study found that during later years, reading books, participating in computer activities, playing games and doing craft activities such as pottery or quilting led to a 30 to 50 percent decrease in the risk of developing memory loss compared to people who did not do those activities.
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Most everyone remembers the wonderful drama Wizard of Oz in which two of the characters, the Tin Man was searching for his heart and the Scarecrow for his brain. It is interesting to consider how cultures from the beginning of civilization have perceived the human body.
Egyptians buried their royalty after removing every organ from the body but the heart. Shakespeare and others have published classic writings on the heart and the emotions associated with this organ. Indeed, our social language has concluded that the heart is the epicenter of human existence and that our fundamental and deep emotions are housed and expressed there.
Stepping back from a deliberate and conscious consideration of this belief is a cold reality that the heart is a pump that perfuses blood throughout our system. The cold truth is that the heart never deserved to be considered the epicenter of anything! We do not feel, move, or think with the heart anymore than we do with the lungs or pancreas. Amazingly, our culture is so smitten with the heart that we even express ourselves in nonsensical ways such as “I love you with all my heart,” “you broke my heart,” the Steelers played their hearts out,” “the Heartbeat of America.” We even have a holiday dedicated to the heart called Valentines’ Day in which you will observe some (typically men) walking around with red boxes shaped like a heart!
While this is a bit fun we should pause and consider a serious fact that the human brain is the system that provides our emotional, motor, and cognitive abilities. Indeed, our brain is our epicenter and it defines our existence and interaction with the world around us. True the heart is critical for pumping the blood to the brain, but love, grief, laughter, fear, hope, mobility, memory, imagination, creativity, language and so much more are outcomes of the miracle that is our brain.
A basic understanding of this fact helps us to appreciate how wrong our thinking has been since the beginning of time. Fortunately, some of this foolish thinking has actually led to sound and effective policy regarding cardiac health (did you ever notice little red hearts next to foods in your grocery stores or on the menu?). We simply need to take an objective understanding of the facts on the human brain and how important it is to our very existence and begin to apply practice and policy that promotes the health and expansion of the human brain.
Maybe the brain will get its own holiday!!