Our brains are so sophisticated and complex yet there are some simple things we must do to properly care for and maintain our brains. Unfortunately as we all know, there is no magic pill to prevent or cure Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia but there are certainly things we can do to promote and prolong brain health.
One of the most important areas to address for brain health maintenance is physical activity and exercise. By participating in exercise, we increase blood flow to the brain which has a positive affect on our brain functioning. This certainly does not mean we must all train for a marathon or become a competitive athlete. We all need to adopt an active lifestyle. All it takes is a minimum of 30 minutes a day. Now honestly, we are all able to commit to 30 minutes a day of merely walking. Yes, strive for 7 days a week, but if you only squeeze in 5, that is still beneficial. Research continues to support the many benefits and importance of physical activity. Exercise is also great for your heart health. Did you realize that if something is good for your brain than it is also good for your heart? Yes, the reverse is also true, if something is good for your heart then it is good for your brain. So as you can see, a sedentary lifestyle is not healthy!
A second key component to prolonging brain health is to eat a healthy diet full of essential vitamins and minerals. Eating a healthy, well balanced diet essentially feeds your mind. It is crucial to eat foods that are full of the healthy omega 3 fatty acids. This includes fish like salmon, flounder, haddock, sole, mackerel, trout, and really just about any fish. Other foods high in omega 3’s are walnuts, cabbage, flax seed, pumpkin seeds, strawberries, spinach. There is really quite a variety of foods that can easily be incorporated into a healthy lifestyle diet.
In addition to omega 3 fatty acids, our brains and bodies can reap benefits from other foods,drinks, spices, and herbs. Do you consume enough fresh fruits and vegetables? Olive oil, avocados, beans, yams, sweet potatoes, dark chocolate, strawberries, cranberries, and apples just to name a few have numerous health benefits. Instead of seasoning your food with salt, try fresh herbs and spices. Did you realize that certain herbs and spices have brain health benefits? Consider adding these to your cooking-cinnamon, turmeric, oregano, ginger, rosemary, garlic, basil, thyme, sage, and saffron. All these spices have been linked to improved brain health. So, spice up your food, it’s good for you! Do you consume enough water? Our brains require water to maintain brain health. Are you a green tea drinker? Green tea has numerous health benefits. I personally average at least 8 cups a day, especially now that it is cold outside!
Exercising your brain is the final key area to address in promoting prolonged brain health. We must keep our brains active and able to form new neural pathways. Take advantage of brain or neuroplasticity! This means that through new learning we actually have the ability to create new pathways in our brain. By adopting a healthy lifestyle and becoming a lifelong learner, we increase our odds for maintaining a healthy brain throughout our lifetime. Isn’t that what we all want to achieve-a long healthy and happy life? We are never too young to begin learning and never too old to stop learning. It is so important to keep our minds sharp! Learn a new language, learn a new game, volunteer, join a club, form a club, change your routine. To help maintain brain health, it is necessary to learn something new, master it, and repeat! Stay connected with people and be part of a group, and have a purpose in life! Remember, laughter does a person good!
As we all know, at this point there is no cure for Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia, but why not take charge of what we can to decrease our risk for developing this debilitating and devastating disease? Make it your New Year’s resolution for 2011 to change your life and prolong your brain health!
Vitamin D and Your Brain
Do you get enough Vitamin D? Do you even know how much you get daily or how much is recommended? Have you had your Vitamin D level checked? My endocrinologist checked mine about almost 2 years ago, and I’ve been taking Vitamin D supplements ever since. Of course my physician monitors my Vitamin D levels through routine blood tests.
Well, today the Institute of Medicine is expected to release its recommendation to increase daily Vitamin D intake from 200 international units to 600 international units. The Institute is also expected to recommend raising the upper limit of Vitamin D intake for adults from 2000 IUs to 4000 IUs. Why is Vitamin D important? I think Vitamin D has gained more attention recently as we are not the sun lovers we once were. More of us consistently use sunscreen and kids don’t seem to play outside all day long like we did as kids. As we all know, Vitamin D is crucial to bone health but did you know that low levels may also contribute to many chronic diseases like-Alzheimer’s Disease, dementia, cognitive decline, diabetes, cancer, auto- immune diseases, depression, stroke, infections, and even heart disease. That is why Vitamin D is crucial to your health!
Are you regularly eating foods containing Vitamin D? What foods contain Vitamin D? Here are some food and beverages containing Vitamin D, of course this is not a comprehensive list-just a sampling. Salmon-wild, Alaskan, sockeye; fish oil; mollusks; Steelhead trout; herring; sardines; halibut; variety of milks-soy, almond, rice, cow, goat; fortified orange juice; mushrooms; spinach; potatoes; eggs; cheese; puddings prepared with milk.
So now that you’ve read all this, what should you do? First, continue to eat a well balanced diet as that promotes anti-aging and healthy aging. Continue to exercise your brain and your body. It’s the combination of brain exercise, physical exercise, and healthy eating that increase your odds for longevity and a healthy life. What have you got to lose except maybe your brain health, chronic diseases and illness, or your life? Perhaps it’s time for a checkup with your physician that includes lab work to check your Vitamin D level to at least establish your baseline.