Where to start? The brain is one of the most (if not the most) complex, important organs in the human body; essentially it is the control center. Let’s begin by breaking down the brain into sections and responsibilities:
- prefrontal cortex (attention, judgment, planning, impulse control, follow-through and empathy)
- anterior cirgulate gyrus (shift attention and be flexible and adaptable to change)
- deep limbic system (emotional tone)
- basal ganglia (integrating thoughts, feelings and movements) temporal lobes (language, short-term memory, mood stability, and temper issues)
- parietal lobes (sensory processing and direction sense)
- occipital lobes (vision)
- cerebellum (physical coordination, thought coordination, and processing speed).
With all of these vital functions taking place in the brain, wouldn’t it be a good idea to take care of your brain? How can you do this?
- Stay hydrated! Your brain is 80% water, so this should be a no brainer. Even slight dehydration can increase stress hormone and do harm to the brain over time!
- Consuming antioxidant-rich fruits and veggies. Fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants reduce the risk of cognitive impairment and reduce oxidative stress. Also Vitamin E and C and beta carotene decrease the production of free radicals.
- Calorie Restriction! Consuming fewer calories has been proven to control weight, which in turn reduces risk of heart disease, cancer and stroke (which are associated with obesity).
- Balanced diet protein, good fats, and carbohydrates. Eating protein at every meal balances blood sugar levels.
- Get enough sleep! We’ve talked about this before (sleep restores hormones) but lack of sleep can impair cognition function.
- Use it (same connotation “if you don’t use it you’ll lose it”). It’s amazing how the percentage of books that people read drops after school. Forty percent of college graduates don’t read after graduation. Seriously? Start out slow, try reading once a month and progress to once a week maybe (read what you like!).
- Reduce the stress in your life. We all know that stress is no good (increasing cortisol levels in the brain and such). Elevated stress levels can effect concentration and productivity.
- Don’t allow your brain to shrink! Toxic things like smoking, drug abuse, and alcoholism can shrink your brain!
- Fish oil (we’ve already discussed this one, but it is that important to overall wellness)! Fish oil is great for cognition, memory, and mood.
- Fat (not just fish oil, but all those other great fats like olive oil). Grey matter in the brain is 60% DHA. Grey matter forms cell membranes and helps cells to function. DHA is vital for brain synapses, which in studies has been shown to promote emotional balance and positive mood.
So what does all this mean? The brain is so important to life and taking care of your brain and giving it what it needs now, will be beneficial down the road (being unhealthy, like having diabetes increases risk for dementia later in life). Give your body what it needs and don’t deprive it! Fuel it with a diet loaded with antioxidant-rich foods and great-tasting protein; don’t skimp on the fat either (it’s good for you)! Get sleep and most of all take your fish oil. The formula is simple and will make life better in the future. Wouldn’t you rather grow old, able to fully function, enjoy life with your family and friends, remember your life and have full cognitive capabilities!