[Wellness Wednesday] How Healthy Is Your Brain? https://reclaiminghopecoaching.com

[Wellness Wednesday] How Healthy Is Your Brain?

Happy Wednesday everyone! For this week’s Wellness Wednesday I thought we’d talk a little about brain health.

So how do we define brain health? According to the American Heart Association“A healthy brain is able to pay attention receive and recognize input from our senses, learn and remember, communicate, solve problems and make decisions, support movement and regulate emotions.” 

Why Should We Be Concerned With

Brain Health?

Poor brain health can result in cognitive decline, “a deficit in the ability to think, remember, pay attention, communicate, solve problems, make decisions or regulate emotions.” (AHA)

Keeping our brains healthy isn’t usually something we think that much about when we’re younger. After all, why do we need to worry? Cognitive decline only affects old people, doesn’t it? Although we most often hear about dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in older people, these changes to the brain don’t happen overnight.

The time to start thinking about our brain health, no matter how old we are, is now. That’s because, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, “Research is still evolving, but evidence is strong that people can reduce their risk of cognitive decline by making key lifestyle changes, including participating in regular physical activity, staying socially engaged, and maintaining good heart health.”

How Can We Take Care Of Our Brains?

The Cleveland Clinic outlines 6 pillars of brain health: physical exercise, food and nutrition, medical health, sleep and relaxation, mental fitness, and social interactions. Let’s take a look at each of these pillars:

Physical Exercise

You may have heard the old adage that what’s good for the heart is good for the brain. We all know that exercise is good for the heart due to its positive effect on blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose levels. Those same positive effects benefit the brain as well.

In addition, according to Harvard Health, regular exercise can “increase the number of tiny blood vessels that bring oxygen-rich blood to the region of the brain that is responsible for thought. Exercise also spurs the development of new nerve cells and increases the connections between brain cells (synapses). This results in brains that are more efficient, plastic, and adaptive, which translates into better performance in aging animals.”

Food and Nutrition

Foods rich in antioxidants can help prevent oxidation that can damage the brain over time. Eating a well-balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats can help keep our brains functioning at optimal levels.

Medical Health

Did you know that having high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or depression increases your risk of dementia? If you’re a smoker or you’ve had a moderate to severe head injury (even if it hasn’t been diagnosed) the risk is also increased.

The best way to make sure these risk factors are kept to a minimum is to make and keep annual preventive care appointments. These appointments can act as an early warning signal to let us know we need to act.

Sleep and Relaxation

We all know the importance of getting good, restorative sleep. According to the Cleveland Clinic, there may be an even more important reason to get those 40 winks. Getting the appropriate time/type of sleep “may reduce buildup in the brain of an abnormal protein called beta-amyloid plaque, which is associated with Alzheimer’s disease.” 

Relaxation helps us to reduce stress levels. Things such as meditation, hobbies, warm baths, etc. can help us relax and restore our bodies.

Mental Fitness

Mentally stimulating activities can help improve brain health. As I talked about in my post The Importance of Lifetime Learning, doing things that make us think outside the box or force us to learn new things can help stimulate our brains to make new connections and improve function in other areas of the brain.

Social Interaction

Believe it or not, having an active social life and maintaining relationships can help reduce memory loss. Not only that, if we maintain strong relationships it may lower our stress levels and blood pressure.

If you’d like more information about brain health, I highly recommend you visit the Cleveland Clinic’s website. It’s chock-full of ways to take care of our gray matter. They also have a brain check-up you can take.

If you’re interested in doing the brain check-up, please visit https://healthybrains.org/brain-check-up/.

I can’t tell you how many prayers I’ve said and tears I’ve shed over folks with dementia or Alzheimer’s being reported missing in our area lately. It seems we have missing person alerts on the news at least once or twice a month where someone with cognitive decline has wandered off and been unable to find their way home.

If we have the opportunity to start improving our risk factors now, wouldn’t it be wise to take advantage of it?

Do you have any tips for supporting brain health? Please share!

Blessings,

~Terri

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Brain lifting weights with text overlay: Wellness Wednesday: How Healthy Is Your Brain?

Brain with Text Overlay: [Wellness Wednesday] How Healthy Is Your Brain?

Sources:

American Heart Association https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/brain-health

Alzheimer’s Association https://www.alz.org/help-support/brain_health

Cleveland Clinic https://healthybrains.org/pillars/

Harvard Health https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/12-ways-to-keep-your-brain-young

19 comments

    1. Thank you so much Wendi! I think brain health is something we need to be concerned with, but the great news is that there are quite a few things we can do to protect our brains and make sure they stay healthy. The Harvard reference above lists 12 different things we can do to improve our brain health. Knowing there are things we can do should help us not worry. Sending hugs your way!

  1. Brain fog occurs so often with this disease – so a timely post. I did ask my doctor to test my cognitive functioning, afraid something worse was happening. Happily, it indicated that my memory is fine.

    1. The brain fog does make you wonder, doesn’t it? I know there have been times when mine was especially bad that I wondered if there was something other than our run-of-the-mill brain fog going on. I’m glad to hear that your memory is fine – I know that has to give you some level of comfort. Hugs!

  2. Broken sleep, less than the recommended 7 hours, brain fog, forgetfulness, social interest and physical exercise limited by fatigue plus an occasional!…. craving for some foods that definitely wouldn’t fit under antioxidant….not a great outlook for this fibro/fatigue warrior Terri!!

    1. Oh Marie, your brain seems to be in good shape right now, at least. I’ve seen your creativity blossom through your blog, so I know you’re keeping your brain busy. We don’t have to be perfect with what we’re doing for our brains all the time; we just do what we can.😊 Hope you’re doing well!

      1. Well said Terri and it’s a good reminder to look at what we are doing not what’s lacking! Yes, I’m proactively pursuing self-care and hope you are too Terri. Thank you for another informative, interesting and awaited post.

  3. I was geekily excited reading this because I kept thinking of things I’d picked up from my psych degree & I have a big interest in all things brain-related. I think there’s definite reason to pursue things that can help engage your brain and keep it supple, reactive and creative. Sometimes it’s with nourishment from food and supplements if you can’t get certain things like Omega 3 from your diet, or through exercise, and other times through activities that directly engage your brain, as you say with socialising, or brain games like crosswords and the like. It’s certainly worth being ‘mindful’ of because I think every little helps. I just find myself getting disheartened sometimes because I used to be very cerebral; my thing was always studying or writing, rather than sports; as my health as declined, so has my ability to think clearly, concentrate, remember things, etc. I still go with the ‘every little helps’ motto, though, it’s worth doing what we can to slow deterioration or make improvements to cognitive function. Very interesting post, Terri! 🙂
    xx

    1. Thanks so much Caz, and thank you for bringing up some outstanding points about keeping our brains healthy. Our brains fascinate me as well, and the more we learn about how they work and how what we do can help or hurt them, the more I want to know. I know what you mean about being discouraged when the “fog” obscures our thinking, but as you said, every little bit helps. Whatever we can do to encourage optimal function is worth doing. Hope you had a wonderful weekend sweet friend! Hugs!

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment Kathy! Hope you’re doing well!

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