Healthy diet and exercise is a well-known prescription for health. But did you know that you brain also benefits and requires lifestyle habits to achieve health and longevity? Doctor Daniel Amen’s book, “Magnificent Mind at Any Age,” reveals how focusing on the health of your brain can greatly improve your life. Dr. Amen is clinical neuroscientist, psychiatrist and brain imaging expert who heads the Amen Clinics. Amen’s research shows how lifestyle can influence brain health, and often with balancing brain health many patients can treat and improve their anxiety, depression, memory problems and other health issues.
According to Amen, “The brain is the most complicated organ in the universe. It is estimated that the brain has one hundred billion nerve cells and more connections in it than there are stars in the universe. Even though the brain consists of only about two percent of your body’s weight, it uses about 25 percent of the calories you consume. If you take a piece of brain tissue the size of a grain of sand, it contains a hundred thousand neurons and a billion connections all communicating with one another. If you are not thoughtful, the brain loses an average of eighty-five thousand brain cells a day, or one per second. Information in the brain travels at the speed of 268 miles per hour, unless of course you are drunk, which really slows things down. The brain is the organ of loving, learning, behaving, intelligence, personality, character, belief and knowing.”
Amen’s books provide in-depth recommendations of brain health. Here the top steps to improve your brain and your life.
1. Protect your brain.
The brain consists of a tofu-like soft, spongy material housed in a hard shell. Protecting our valuable asset from injury is a critical step in brain longevity. Simple daily activities like wearing a seat belt or wearing a helmet when bicycling, rollerblading, etc will prevent injury. Amen also discusses sports like soccer and football and the damage it can cause to the brain. “A 2007 study by John Adams and colleagues at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine found that hitting a soccer ball with one’s head may be linked to long-term brain injury and memory problems later in life.”
Amen found that damaging the brain due to injuries can inhibit success in life. “People who have experienced head injuries have a higher incidence of drug abuse, alcoholism, mood problems, divorce, domestic violence, arrests, financial problems, and every other type of trouble that leads to failure. Be smart. If you want to be your best, protect your soft brain.”
2. Care for developing brains.
Although society may deem adulthood by 18 years of age, the brain doesn’t fully develop until age 25. Amen recommends that parents and society should do a better job of protecting young adult brains. “Too often parents give up on their teenagers and do not supervise what they eat, allow them to get little sleep, don’t get terribly upset about early drinking or marijuana use, and permit them to drive in unsafe vehicles.”
3. Increase blood flow.
The brain not only consumes 25 percent of the body’s calories, it also uses 20 percent of the body’s blood flow and oxygen supply. Blood delivers vital nutrients such as oxygen, sugar and vitamins to the brain as well as removes carbon dioxide and other toxic waste products. Amen says “improving blood flow is the fountain of youth.” Luckily, increasing blood flow isn’t brain surgery. To increase blood flow to the brain as well as throughout the body, you must sleep at least over six hours per night; drink an abundance of water; avoid caffeine and alcohol (substances that dehydrate); quit smoking; consider supplements like fish oil, gingko, ginseng and L-arginine that boost blood flow. Amen says, “Probably the most important thing to do is eliminate any toxins and to exercise.”
4. Proactively improve your brain.
Brain injuries, toxins, alcohol, drugs, smoking, stress, lack of sleep and poor diet are some of the major factors in decreasing your brain health. Proactively working to improve your brain can prepare you and your brain for pending life troubles and positively get you through it. In addition to a healthy diet, taking fish oil and daily multiple vitamins, there are many other ways to improve your brain. Amen listed:
- Make positive social connections
- Engage in new learning
- Learn music
- Dance (of course, without drinking)
- Engage in positive thinking
- Express gratitude
Our society tends to focus more on the external body than our internal organs. Quick fixes with plastic surgery and cosmetic products will not undo the need to care for the total body. The reality is a healthy inside will make a healthier and more beautiful outside. Start with small steps and work toward a healthier and happier you!
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