Down Time for Your Brain

Spirituality

Dr. Nussbaum has used this blog to articulate his five part brain health lifestyle for all to consider. These five components include Mental Stimulation (e.g. brain games), Physical Activity, Socialization, Spirituality, and Nutrition.  Research has provided specific activities and behaviors that fall into one or more of the five components of the lifestyle. The critical thing for readers is to review their own lifestyle currently and try to incorporate the research based activities into a proactive approach to brain health.

Spirituality is a broad term that I use to refer to turning inward, slowing down, and introspecting. This process of slowing down may be important to brain health as research indicates animal brains stop developing when exposed to environments that are too stimulating. Baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, are notorious for a fast-paced life with multitasking and stress production. While this type of lifestyle may be necessary at times, it also has its consequences, particularly on health.

Dr. Nussbaum supports 30 minutes a day to slow down, turn inward, and to simply turn off the environmental input. This might actually include turning your phone, ipod, and other communication device off! Research indicates slowing down can reduce stress which may then have positive effects on both the heart and the brain.

Daily prayer enhances the immune system, attending a formal place of worship relates to a longer and happier life, and U.S. physicians indicate prayer is important to the overall wellbeing to their patients. Meditation and relaxation procedures have also been shown to relate to positive health outcomes. These and other ways of simply slowing down are both advised and necessary.

Have a great night sleep!

The Pedometer and Brain Health

walking and Brain health

One of the five major factors in Dr. Nussbaum’s Brain Health Lifestyle is physical activity. Research has demonstrated a relationship between walking daily and aerobic exercise three times a week and reduction in the risk of dementia. This stems in large part to the fact that every heart beat distributes 25% of the blood output and nutrition directly to the brain!

A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA, 2007, 298) found the use of a pedometer is associated with significant increases in physical activity and significant decreases in body mass index and blood pressure. We know that blood pressure; particularly hypertension and obesity are two risk factors for dementia.

Perhaps you can begin your New Year with a couple simple resolutions:

  1. Increase your daily physical activity through daily walks and, or aerobic exercise three times weekly.
  2. Purchase a pedometer for yourself and for two loved ones in your life circle. This little, inexpensive tool will remind you to walk and give you immediate feedback on your daily steps. 10,000 steps daily is a good number to live by.

You are on your way to better brain health through increased physical activity.

Your Fatty Brain

As part of our ongoing discussion on brain fitness (e.g. brain games) and health lifestyle I have proposed, it is now time to consider the fattiest part of you……your brain.

Your brain, the most miraculous system ever designed in the history of the universe, weighs between two and four pounds and is made up of 60% fat. As a system of your body, it is indeed your fattiest. It is important to understand the role of the fat and how you may keep the fat nice and robust.

One role for the fat in your brain is to insulate neural tracks of cells to propel the electrical impulse carrying information in a rapid way. Without the fat, the brain cells are not insulated and information processing will slow. Many of us complain about how slow our computer is; imagine how tough it must be to suffer a slowing of our own information processing speed.

Research suggests Omega 3 fatty acids are a good source to build or maintain the healthy fat in our system and brain. Indeed, research suggests consumption of Omega 3s can help to fight off dementia. Foods rich in Omega 3s include fish such as salmon, herring, tuna, and sardines. Unsalted nuts such as walnuts are also rich in Omega 3s. It is suggested that we increase our fish intake to several ounces several times a week.

Another important brain boosting food includes fruits and vegetables because they are rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants help to rid the body of oxygen based toxins known as free radicals thought to create breakdown in muscle and tissue. At least one national governing body indicates we should consume five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

For the New Year consider increasing your intake of fish, fruits and vegetables. Your brain deserves it!

Brain Health Lifestyle #3 – Socialization

I have proposed a five factor brain health lifestyle to include (1) Mental Stimulation (e.g. brain games), (2) Physical Activity, (3) Socialization, (4) Nutrition, and (5) Spirituality. For this blog I want to provide some information on the power of socialization.

Research teaches us that social isolation and segregation, particularly in the later years of life is related to increased risk of dementia. Dementia is a general clinical term that describes a decline in general intelligence, loss of memory, language or visuospatial deficit, change in personality, and decline in functional ability. Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is the number one cause of dementia in the United States.

Other research indicates passivity in the forties is related to increased risk of dementia in later life. There is a relatively strong message to remain integrated and involved in something meaningful across your entire lifespan. It is also important to be engaged with other people and to develop strong relationships. A study this year taught us that loneliness actually increases the risk of dementia. It is not simply being with others, one needs to feel included and related to the group.

It is never too late to develop a personal inventory of your social network and relationships. Assess your life and determine if you are spending time doing the things that inspire you, more importantly that might inspire others. Socialization and all that is discussed in this blog is a brain health issue and one that should be taken seriously.

Dr. Nussbaum

Brain Health Lifestyle: Physical Activity

Our last blog on brain health discussed the importance of mental stimulation (e.g. brain fitness, brain games) as one factor in my five factor brain health lifestyle. Clearly FitBrains provides a fun and healthy brain fitness regiment that is considered mentally stimulating.

Similar to mental stimulation (e.g. brain games), your brain appreciates it when you are physically active. The reason is simple: every time your heart beats 25% of the blood output from that one heartbeat goes directly to your brain! I refer to this as “market share.” If your brain goes even several minutes without sufficient blood and the oxygen carried by the blood will suffer potential damage with functional and cognitive loss.

Research highlights specific physical activities that reduce the risk of dementia (promote brain health). These include:

  • Walking on a daily basis
  • Aerobic exercise three times a week
  • Dance
  • Knitting
  • Gardening
  • Jogging
  • Treadmill, Stepmaster, Stationary bike exercises
  • Write with the non-dominant hand daily

Interestingly these activities employ both sides of the body, thereby stimulating both sides of the brain. An ambidextrous brain is probably a more adaptive brain than one that is highly specialized in one hemisphere.

Remember, the more active you are the more your brain will be nourished with the blood-glucose and oxygen it demands. You will have a happy brain!