Friday, March 20, 2009

Keeping the Brain Young

This post is a third post for the week that commemorates Brain Awareness Week. The general message that I am promoting is that your brain is a tool that we must nurture and develop in order to learn and grow.

The Dana Foundation is the founder and primary sponsor of Brain Awareness Week. An exploration of their web site uncovers numerous articles, events, podcasts and more about current brain research. It's an interesting review of the current state of brain research.

On my exploration, I discovered a document titled Q & A - Answering your Questions About Brain Research. I appreciated the simple question and answer format and would recommend the document for anyone who is curious about basic brain functions and the role of the brain in learning, life, and health. A sample of the questions include:
  • How does the brain work?
  • How do we learn?
  • How does the brain influence and regulate the function of the other body systems?
  • Can the brain heal itself from trauma or injury?
  • Why do some people develop mental illnesses?
Curious about the brain? This is a nice document.

More than any other question that caught my attention was, How can I keep my brain young?

The list is pretty simple, most of which are very accessible to anyone that want to say vital in life. Here's how to keep your brain young:
  • Incorporating physical activity—especially aerobic exercise—into our daily schedule, even if only for 10 minutes at a time.
  • Stimulating our mind with mental activities and novel experiences that challenge the brain and activate new neural pathways.
  • Interacting with other people and engaging in social activities.
  • Having a sense of self-worth and self-efficacy, the feeling that what we do matters.
  • Reducing cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
  • Eating a healthful diet that includes plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables (for antioxidants and other vitamins and minerals) and fatty fish or nuts (sources of Omega-3 fatty acids), and that limits trans fat and saturated fats.
  • Managing stress and finding healthful ways to cope with high-stress periods.
  • Getting adequate amounts of sleep—about 8 hours for most adults.
  • In addition, population-based studies seem to suggest that mild to moderate alcohol consumption—from a couple of drinks a week up to about two a day—is associated with longer life, and in some cases better cognitive functioning. However, it is not at all clear if this is due to a true biological effect of alcohol or because the people who drank alcohol tended to also be doing something else good for their brain health, such as interacting socially.
The answer invites you to work "brain-friendly" activities in your life and to know that it is never too late to start. Brains of any age can benefit.

Final piece of fascinating trivia from the Q&A article:
Did you know that the 3 pound marvel that we know as the brain is typically only 2 percent of our body weight but consumes 20 percent of our oxygen and 20 percent of our bodies energy. It strikes me that the brain is one energy guzzler that we don't' want to go green.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly. Keep your brain young and guzzling.

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