How sharp is your brain and are you giving it the respect it deserves? After all, without your brain you have nothing! Just like you need a wellness program for your heart so you don’t have a heart attack, you also need a wellness program for your brain so you can keep working on all cylinders.
Just think about what your brain does for you every day: paying attention, receiving and recognizing information, learning and remembering, communicating, solving problems, making decisions, supporting mobility and regulating emotions. Are these not essential functions you can’t do without?
Here is something to consider. The brain needs adequate blood flow to function optimally, and when blood flow is slowed or blocked—because the heart isn’t pumping properly or the arteries are filled with plaque—brain tissue can become damaged. Elevated blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar can all impair blood vessels leading to the brain and can cause strokes or mini-strokes that can lead to subsequent cognitive decline, called vascular dementia. 1
A well-fed, rested, and oxygenated brain is necessary for mental resilience and peak performance amid stress and uncertainty. When all other things are equal, mental resilience is the factor that really distinguishes top leaders. 2
What this means is in order to keep your brain in top shape, you need to pay special attention to issues like nutrition and exercise to prevent high blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugars which can also lead you down the path to obesity and Diabetes. In other words, you need a wellness plan for your brain, not just for your body. Here are two important first steps.
FOOD and your Brain.
Our food system is killing us. In the U.S., more than 2/3 of the population is now overweight or obese, and heart disease and stroke are killing more than 700,000 people every year. The food you eat not only has a direct impact on your physical health but your brain health as well.
Here are some tips:
Plan ahead for what you will eat each day so you don’t get caught eating foods that cause you to be sluggish.
Keep healthy “low glycemic” snacks in your desk and car when you get busy and are hungry.
Consider a Food Diary to keep track of how different foods affect your mood and mental sharpness.
Create a list of healthy brain foods that work for you and keep them in stock.
Reduce sugar intake as too much is harmful to the brain, inducing inflammation, oxidative stress and poor insulin regulation.
Nourish your brain with a plant-based high antioxidant diet with lots of fresh vegetables and fruits which can improve memory, learning and overall cognitive performance.
EXERCISE and your brain.
Research shows that physical exercise enhances cognitive function. One reason might be because it increases of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that improves learning, memory and higher thinking by stimulating growth of new neurons and helping existing neurons stay alive. 3
People who exercise regularly and are physically fit have a much bigger hippocampus, which is your memory center. The more you walk, the bigger your hippocampus will get and the less you will be at risk for brain decline. One study showed that walking one mile a day lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 48%. 4, 5
If you are need a boost to get going, here is a simple plan to get yourself up and “walking” and building a new healthy brain habit.
Week 1: Walk 3x/week for 10 mins
Week 2-7: Increase the length of time you walk by 15 minutes each week until you reach 40 minutes
Maintenance: Stay at 40 mins 3x/week
Surely you have a little time each day to walk, especially if it is a drug-free opportunity to sharpen your thinking. Take charge of your brain health today, start making simple lifestyle choices related to food and exercise, and you can remain at the top of your game for as long as you desire.