Everything You Need to Know About Your Brain and How to Power It Up - Part 2
Last week, I shared how good nutrition benefits the human brain. Today, we will look at a number of lifestyle habits you can adopt to maintain brain health.
Lifestyle changes can be broken down into four categories:
- physical health and exercise
- diet and nutrition
- cognitive activity
- social engagement
These categories have been shown to reliably help keep your body and brain healthy to potentially reduce your risk of cognitive decline. Research has found combining activities of each category has a great impact in maintaining or improving brain health than any single activity.
Many studies have found an association between physical activity and reduced risk of cognitive decline.
Try engaging in regular physical activity and cardiovascular exercise to elevate your heart rate blood flow and oxygen to the brain. Physical activities can be both mentally and socially engaging.
For example, you can:
- walk with a friend
- take a dance class
- join an exercise group
- go golfing
- take a tennis lesson
- join a community pool
- walk your dog
- go for a bike ride
Aerobic activity should be performed in 10 minute sessions, or more, every day. Two of those sessions should be muscle strengthening activities.
Tips on incorporating physical activity daily
- leisure time activities: walking, dancing, gardening, hiking, swimming
- transportation: walking, cycling
- household chores: vacuuming, cleaning windows, dusting
It’s time to hit the books. Old dogs can learn new tricks!
Continuing education during any stage of life will help reduce your risk of cognitive decline. Here are some great resources:
-Online Education (Even reading this article is an example)
The topics for learning are endless! Pick anything of interest, look for a local class or check out a book from the library on the topic.
-check your local craft store or home improvement store for classes
-look for books on cooking or making your own kombucha tea
-teach yourself to sew, knit, or crochet
-look for local church club activities, quilting is popular in some areas
-join an online group such as Skillshare.com, where you can pick from thousands of classes (currently over 19,000!) Categories include, but are not limited to, design, writing, technology, photography.
Quit smoking for your brain
There are many reasons to kick this habit, decreasing risk of cognitive decline is another! Evidence shows that smoking increases risk of cognitive decline.
Here are some tips to help:
- Find your reason (avoiding cognitive decline perhaps). Whatever your reason, keeping it clear in your mind will help motivate you.
- Get prepared. Going ‘cold turkey’ doesn’t work for many, choose your method and set up a support system such as a friend to call when you’re having trouble fighting the urge.
- Aromatherapy, such as smelling black pepper essential oil may help with nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Numerous studies and in-depth research has shown that black pepper oil has the ability to help overcome the habit of smoking. Many people have successfully quit after inhaling black pepper oil, which causes a warming sensation in the throat and chest. This sensation also curbs the craving to smoke and helps them to stop.
- Find new ways to reduce stress.
- Avoid triggers in the first few weeks. If you associate smoking with drinking, avoid drinking. If you usually smoke after a meal, try taking a walk during this time instead.
By taking care of your heart, your brain is more likely to follow! Studies show risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke (obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes) negatively impact your cognitive health. Protect your brain by protecting your heart by maintaining your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar within recommended limits and sustain a healthy weight. A healthy diet and regular exercise are key to heart protection.
Blood pressure is recorded as two numbers: systolic and diastolic
-- Systolic blood pressure (the upper number) — indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls when the heart beats.
-- Diastolic blood pressure (the lower number) — indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls while the heart is resting between beats.
Typically, systolic pressure, or the top number, is more important. Blood pressure is measured as mm Hg, meaning millimeters of mercury, which is a pressure gauge. Normal levels: Systolic less than 120. Diastolic less than 80
Safety measures to protect your brain
Injuries to the brain can increase your risk of cognitive decline. It’s important to take safety precautions when possible.
- Wear a seatbelt
- Use a helmet when riding a bike
- Take steps to prevent falls
Common factors contributing to falls:
- Inactivity is a common cause of reduced balance, coordination, and flexibility. Try Pilates as a low impact activity to reduce your risk.
- Poor vision can make tripping hazards and obstacles more difficult to see.
- Some prescriptions and over-the-counter medications can cause dizziness or dehydration which can contribute to falls.
- Check your home environment for simple modifications, for example, tacking down a loose rug to avoid chances of tripping.
Not getting enough sleep due to conditions like insomnia or sleep apnea may result in problems with memory and thinking. Insomnia can be caused by psychiatric and medical conditions, unhealthy sleep habits, specific substances, and/or certain biological factors.
Examples of medical conditions that can cause insomnia are:
- Nasal/sinus allergies
- Chronic pain
- Low back pain
To get a better night’s sleep try creating a bedtime routine.
- Avoid using your computer or phone right before bedtime
- Try incorporating a few restful stretches and deep breathing exercises into your bedtime routine. If you would like my Physical Breathing series you can get it here.
- A warm Epsom bath or hot shower can be relaxing
- Try reading a book to calm your mind
- Avoid caffeinated beverages late in the day
Studies report an association between depression and an increased risk of cognitive decline. Managing stress can help reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety or other mental health concerns.
There are many techniques you can try for managing stress.
- Physical activity releases ‘feel good’ endorphins
- Deep breathing lowers cortisol levels
- Essential oils or aromatherapy can give you a boost, some calming scents include lavender, bergamot, frankincense, and geranium.
- Journaling can be a great release.
- Neurofeedback therapy is one of the best therapies I have found to help retrain your brain. I discussed this earlier here.
Get involved in the community and pursue social activities that are meaningful to you
Here are some ideas to get more social interactions:
- Find ways to be part of your local community
- Volunteer at a library
- Join a club to teach English or read to children
- See if a local park need gardening volunteers
- Animal shelters are always looking for animal caretakers
- Join a choir
- Join or start a book club
Mentally challenging activities are great for keeping your mind sharp! Challenging your mind may have short and long-term benefits for your brain.
- Try learning a new skill
- Work on a puzzle
- Participate in strategic games, such as bridge
- Learn how to play an instrument
- Do something artistic like painting or scrapbooking
- Read a different style of books
- Journal or write poetry
A number of supplements are associated with improving cognitive function. Consuming a healthy diet is the best way to achieve optimal nutrition, but sometimes it can be difficult getting all the nutrients we need in one day! Try the following supplements to boost memory, motivation, creativity, alertness and general cognitive function.
Contain healthy fatty acids essential for maintaining the structure and function of your brain and have a host of anti-inflammatory effects. The one I recommend is here.
This powerful antioxidant is found in deep purple and red colored fruits. Some studies show resveratrol could prevent the deterioration of the hippocampus where memories are stored. Here is a great multivitamin with some resveratrol in it.
This herbal supplement is popular for a boost in brain power by increasing blood flow to the brain.
This is a powerful supplement often used in Chinese medicine to promote well-being and healthy brain function.
Phosphatidylserine is a type of fat compound found in the brain. Some studies suggest taking phosphatidylserine supplements could be helpful for preserving brain health.
If you want more healthy tips you can subscribe to my YouTube channel here. Like and comment on my channel so I will know what tips and topics you want to know about. I am forming a community of people who want to take action in their own health with my social media channels and I want to know what health topics you want to hear.
I hope my column speaks to you and you can wake up each morning with a purpose. What I do every day is a calling, and I give God the glory for allowing His gifts to work through me. I do believe in miracles, because I get to see them every day! For more information you can go to www.nomoremedsmovement.com and sign up for my closed Facebook group #NoMoreMeds-Community for more healthy tips.
Dr. Corinne Weaver
Dr. Corinne Weaver is a compassionate upper cervical chiropractor, educator, motivational speaker, mother of three, and internationally bestselling author. In 2004, she founded the Upper Cervical Wellness Center in Indian Trail, North Carolina. Over the last 13 years, she has helped thousands of clients restore their brain to-body function. When she was 10 years old, she lost her own health as the result of a bike accident that led to having asthma and allergy issues that she thought she would always have to endure. Then, after her first upper cervical adjustment at age 21, her health began to improve thanks to upper cervical care and natural herbal remedies. This enabled her to create a drug-free wellness lifestyle for herself and her family, and she also enthusiastically discovered her calling to help children heal naturally.
Dr. Weaver was recently named one of Charlotte Magazine's "Top Doctors" in 2016 and is now a number-one internationally bestselling author to two books: Learning How to Breathe and No More Meds.
Upper Cervical Wellness Center is known for finding the root cause of health concerns through lifestyle changes, diagnostic testing, nutraceutical supplementation, and correction of subluxation (as opposed to just medicating the symptoms). The practice offers cutting-edge technological care at its state-of-the-art facility, including laser-aligned upper cervical X-rays, bioimpedance analysis (measures body composition), digital thermography (locates thermal abnormalities characterized by skin inflammation), and complete nutritional blood analysis, which is focused on disease prevention.