The second week of March is Brain Awareness Week, which I just couldn't ignore this year. Brain Health is a hot topic in my family these days - my mother has Vascular Dementia and lived with us for the past 6 years. In August she had a stroke and we were no longer able to keep her at home due to her high fall risk and low cognitive function. It has been a huge transition for us, and a huge reminder of how important brain health is to long term health and wellness. The truth of the matter is that you can never start paying attention to brain health too early, and the more you can prevent instead of treat the longer you will have a healthy brain.
In light of Brain Awareness week, therefore, this is a perfect time to explore ways to keep your noggin working and healthy. Below are some easy, simple ways to keep your brain in good shape that my family and I try to observe.
A healthy diet is a healthy mind
There are many reasons to keep a healthy lifestyle and feed your body with foods that make you feel and perform your best. Diets that are low in saturated fats and cholesterol and higher in omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to promote brain health and protect brain cells. Taking a fish oil supplement with DHA or eating fish such as salmon can help improve brain development at any age. DHA, a type of omega-3, may also help prevent certain neurological disorders. Vitamin E and lutein can also help brain health. Incorporate leafy greens such as spinach and kale into your lunch or dinners.
Keep your brain stimulated
At any age, brain exercises are a great thing to get into the habit of. Keeping your brain stimulated can help retain your memory as you get older as well as your capability to learn new skills. The brain is never done learning. Exercises like reading, crosswords, number problems and games like sudoku can help keep your brain stay active and working. In particular, learning NEW things can help your brain create new neural connections bolstering its strength and vitality. You don't have to be good at something new, you just have to try to learn it so taking a new class or picking up a new hobby for 3-6 months can be brilliant for your brain.
Furthermore, if you find yourself experiencing chronic stress, practice daily meditation for as little as five minutes a day to help reduce inflammation and support immune health, which are both controlled by the same area of the brain.
Keeping in touch with friends and family and continuously working on building relationships helps your emotional state as well as your physical health. Surround yourself with people who challenge you, understand you and keep a positive tone. Join organizations or clubs you are interested in and make new connections. Feeling connected to others is always important for your mental wellbeing.
Quit the bad habits
If you smoke, now is the best time to quit. Consuming an excess in substances such as alcohol, cigarettes and other drugs can lower cognitive processes and decrease overall functioning and health.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine it is believed that the spleen, kidney and heart organs all impact mental capacity and brain activity. These organs influence memory, concentration and recall. When one of these organs is experiencing deficiency or an imbalance, our brain can not function to its fullest. Acupuncture addresses the organs with specific points on the body to return the body back to balance and health.
Rebecca M H Kitzerow is a Licensed Acupuncturist practicing in La Center, Washington. With over a decade of experience she has won 10 Nattie consumer choice awards from Natural Awakenings Magazine since 2014.