As I conduct in-depth research on the brain, in preparation for a seminar in March where I have been asked to be a Keynote Speaker. I have been mesmerized by the power we possess in assisting and developing our brain function, as the title of this article states, At Any Age. The study of how we can improve our brain function is relatively new in the world of science. The discoveries are exciting and refreshing. Most of us can remember the popular statement going around, “Once you have killed your brain cells they do not grow back”, or “You only have so many brain cells throughout your life”. These statements are being proven false scientifically. Most of our organs, such as the liver and the kidneys, stay primarily the same through our lifespan, yet the brain is constantly changing and growing. When you wake up in the morning and consciously decide to have something different for breakfast, you are creating a new pathway within the nerve impulses in the brain. Not only do we create new pathways, we have the ability to bypass damaged pathways to create new, restored functions, as seen in stroke victims. The technical term is neuroplasticity. Your brain is very similar to dough, being moldable and adaptable at all stages of life. Your brain affects every action in your day. So how do we go about improving or Boosting our Brain function no matter our age? Here are some suggestions based on the scientific research currently available on the topic.
The Essentials of Brain Health
Just like any part of our body, our brain needs blood flow to nourish the cells and remove toxins. Keeping our brain functioning at its highest level involves just a little effort on our part. Most of the experts agree on focusing on a few of the following areas:
- Hydration / Water – The brain is over 70% water and our blood is over 80% water. All that fluid helps to remove toxins and deliver nutrients to the brain. As we age, we increase our risk of dehydration. Daily hydration is critical for proper brain function.
- Diet – The brain can use up to 20% of your energy during a normal day. Eating a diet that contains healthy oils, such as coconut and olive oil, avocados, walnuts, chia seeds and salmon, show direct cognitive benefits. One spice that is getting a lot of attention in the scientific community is Turmeric. According to a recent article published by the National Institute of Health, Turmeric acts as an anti-inflammatory agent and is used to treat dementia and traumatic brain injuries. This spice is an antioxidant and has an anti-inflammatory action that shows promise in improving the cognitive function in individuals with Alzheimer’s Diseases.
- Exercise – When we move we create an opportunity for increased blood distribution. This will elevate the oxygen levels in the cells, while removing toxins, which creates the perfect environment for neurogenesis, the creation of new connections between the nerves in the brain. It takes as little as a regular effort of 40 minutes three times a week to show marked improvements.
Something as common as coming out of the grocery store and forgetting where we parked the car can send us on an emotional rollercoaster. Our heart begins to beat faster along with our breath becoming shallow. We start the internal dialog, “What if I don’t find my car?”, “Has it been stolen?”, “Do I have a memory problem?”. This course of action will only prove to be counter productive in finding your car. We need to Stop, Pause and Regulate our emotions to allow for our brain to begin the recall process. Here are a couple of ways to start helping your brain by emotionally regulating.
- Reframing our thoughts – This skill is something that will grow stronger with practice. Just as with every muscle, we can build strength in our minds. When faced with a stressful event, take a moment and create a larger space between thought, feeling and action. Acknowledge the internal messaging, yet take a moment and reframe the thought. “I WILL eventually find my car”, “No, I do not have a Memory problem”. This will allow for your brain to move out of the reactive mode and into one of reasoning, allowing for a better chance of finding that misplaced car.
- Breathing – Sounds really simple, yet we tend to forget how powerful and connected we are to our breath, Many of our emotions are directly connected to our breath. When we see something beautiful, we sigh. If we are startled, we gasp. Our breath is connected to our emotional responses, and we can control our breath. Staying out of shallow breathing and beginning to practice the art of deep breathing not only helps you in stressful situations, but it will improve your cognitive function, emotional regulation and create new nerve connections in the brain. In the moment, while standing there looking for that car, take a couple of deep breaths. This will generate a response in the brain to increase the nerve responses and give us more resources available for recall of information.
Improvements in brain function can occur at any stage of our lives, and fortunately, with any event. The science is there to prove it, You really can BOOST YOUR BRAIN at ANY AGE