May 29, 2020 5 min read
At Ārepa we're all about healthy brains. We firmly believe that a healthy brain is the first step to a healthier life and a better lifestyle. Promoting brain health can have positive effects that flow on in ways you never imagined.
A healthy brain is a mix of physiological variables (your health and wellbeing), biological determinants (your genes) and outside vectors that you encounter (your environment). Genes, hormones, the immune system, nutrition, exercise, relationships, stress, emotions, mindset, life event and other lifestyle choices all play into the overall health of your most important organ.
Think about it like an ever-evolving ecosystem where each element can impact others in a meaningful way, and in turn they affect that original element. For example, your thoughts can influence your physical health and then that health can playback to your thoughts.
You can’t do much about your genes, but other physiological, social and environmental factors can be modified to improve your brain. At Ārepa we know that for a lot of people the factor which is the easiest to moderate is diet. The modern Western diet is high-calorie, high-flavour and commercially efficient but it's not particularly geared towards brain health and can be particularly healthy to the minds of many.
Our brains naturally decline if we do nothing to protect them. However, modern science tells us there is ways to intervene and slow the decline process — it’s easier to protect a healthy brain than fix a broken one.
With that in mind, check out the 6x habits to help support ad care for your brain, it's the only one you've got!
That means eating lots of foods associated with slowing cognitive decline, like New Zealand Neuroberry Blackcurrants. New Zealand blackcurrants have a heap of cognitive benefits including supporting neurological health and increasing mental stamina when you're running low and brain fog is creeping in.
Eating a balanced diet is a great way to know you're taking the right steps towards better brain health. Blackcurrants, vegetables (leafy greens — kale, spinach, broccoli), whole grains, protein from fish and legumes and healthy unsaturated fats (olive oil) over saturated fats (butter) all contribute to a better cognitive ecosystem This diet is good for your brain, heart, and blood vessels which makes sense because they all work in coordination.
“Omega-3 fats from fish or nuts fight inflammation associated with neurodegeneration. Fruit and vegetables combat age-related oxidative stress that causes wear and tear on brain cells,” says Dr. Gary Small, a professor of psychiatry and aging, and director of the Longevity Center at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience & Human Behavior, University of California, Los Angeles.
Finding calm in your day is so important, especially for giving you the chance to anchor yourself and reflect on why you are feeling the ways you are.
It's common when experiencing ongoing stress to associate it with an external problem, like a work project or a friend or just something on the horizon you're not excited for. But, that doesn't mean you need to, or should, let it consume you. Your stress may alleviate when that event passes but the causes that created the anxiety and discomfort still exist.
Chronic stress can change the wiring of our brains. 'Stress shrinks the brain’s memory centres, and the stress hormone cortisol temporarily impairs memory,' says Dr Small. So it's important to actively deal with stress every day rather than letting it persist.
To reverse stress and improve your mood and memory, adopt relaxation methods like meditation. “Meditation even rewires the brain and improves measures of chromosomes’ telomere (protective cap) length, which predicts longer life expectancy” argues Dr Small.
Physical activity is one of the best things you can do for your brain and body.
There's plenty of research showing physical activity — walking, running, cycling, minimal weight-lifting, yoga - contributes to improved cognitive performance.
Exercise stimulates the brain to release brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a molecule essential for repairing brain cells and creating connections between them.
Physical activity also boosts endorphins, which can lift your mood. “Aerobic exercise helps improve the health of brain tissue by increasing blood flow to the brain and reducing the chances of injury to the brain from cholesterol buildup in blood vessels and from high blood pressure,” says Dr Joel Salinas, a neurologist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.
If you're struggling with the motivation to get up and get moving, a dietary change can be helpful. NZ Blackcurrants have been shown to improve motivation and desire to exercise. Looking after your diet looks after your brain and helps encourage exercise which then in turn further helps your brain.
Brain fit is a real thing. Spend time on new thoughts and idea, and keep pushing your cognitive boundaries.
To improve your brain health, try to do one activity that challenges the mind every day — spend some time in new thoughts. The desire to learn and understand other people, ideas, cultures and concepts can boost your brain.
“…higher cognitive activity endows the brain with a greater ability to endure the effects of brain pathologies compared to a person with lower cognitive engagement throughout life,” says David S. Knopman, M.D., a clinical neurologist involved in research in late-life cognitive disorders.
Lifelong learning and mentally challenging work build cognitive reserves. Find reasonably challenging activities you can practice regularly — try activities that combine mental, social and physical challenges.
We’re social creatures and when we're well connected we're generally happier, which is great for the brain.
Psychological studies show that conversation stimulates the brain. It requires a complex combination of skills including attention, memory, thinking, speech and social awareness.
A study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that better social interaction can help protect the brain against dementia and Alzheimers. Social connections are as important to our flourishing as the need for food, safety, and shelter. The urge to connect is a life-long human need.
Matthew Lieberman, a social psychologist, neuroscientist, and author of Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect, sees the brain as the center of the social self. He writes in his book, “It’s hard to find meaning in what we do if at some level it doesn’t help someone else or make someone happier.”
Researchers at the Oregon Health & Science University and the University of Michigan have suggested that human interaction and conversation could be the keys to maintaining brain function as we grow older.
Supportive friends, family and social connections helps you live longer, happier and healthier. Socialising reduces the harmful effects of stress
Sleep is the number one, fundamental bedrock of good health. A good night sleep every night should be a priority, not a luxury.
“Without good sleep, we see increased anxiety and stress. Sleep is restorative, helping you be more mentally energetic and productive,” advises Sandra Bond Chapman, Ph.D., founder and chief director of the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas and author of Make Your Brain Smarter.
Certain foods can help support sleep. L-theanine is shown to improve sleep and reduce sleep latency which is great news for anyone twisting and turning and feeling their stress ramp.
*This blog has been adapted from Thomas Oppong, Mind Cafe.
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