The heart of who we are, as individuals, is based on our personality, beliefs, temperament, and spirituality. Those traits bring out our ability to articulate our feelings and express our emotion to family, friends, and co-workers. These components are harbored and molded by our brain.
“Brain aging” refers to the “wear and tear” and speed of your brain. We are born with 100 billion neurons (cells) in our brain. Neurons provide vital connections via synapses (electrical bridges) to keep information running smoothly. As we go through life we lose and rebuild these neurons, but as we get to the age of 40 the brain cannot keep up the re-building process and begins to decline.
Our habits and lifestyle can affect the age our brain. Brain aging is caused by weakened cerebral pathways and/or damaged neural material (think scar tissue) that destroy synapses. Both of these eventually slow down the transfer of information in the brain. This can lead to disorders such as dementia, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s. What makes us so resilient as humans is the fact that we can keep this decline at bay if we take pride in our brain.
- The Cortex: is the largest “mass” of the brain that is divided into four lobes. These lobes are responsible for processing and responding to different types of sensory information.
- Cerebral Pathways: a series of neurons (cells) that connect to send to a signal from one part of the brain to the other. Think of the electrical wiring in your home.
- Cerebro-spinal Pathway: a series of neurons (cells) that connect to send to a signal from the brain to the spinal cord. This will allow us to complete and adjust physical movements. Think of an outlet, a plug, and a lamp. The electricity will move from the outlet, through the plug, to allow the lamp to turn on.
- A. Temporal Lobe: area involved in long term memory and language processing B. Parietal Lobe: known as our “thought factory”, determines brain “speed” and “age” C. Frontal Lobe: involved in decision making, judgment, and emotions.
- The Heart: organ that moves blood throughout the body’s circulatory system.
- Blood Flow: the circulation of blood through our body
- Sugar: known as a sweetener
How to Empower Yourself
It all starts with understanding if you could be at high risk for early brain aging. Health issues such as cardiovascular disease, untreated depression or ADD, excess intake of alcohol, traumatic brain injury, and diabetes greatly increase your risk of early brain aging.
Next, you understand what foods can support a healthy brain.
- Omega 3’s, garlic, ginger, rosemary, berries, green tea, pomegranate are important to brain health as they decrease inflammation. The less inflammation in the body, the better the blood flow to the brain.
- Oregano, cloves, thyme, berries, artichoke, and cocoa can fight off free radicals. Free radicals are toxins that can destroy the power source to cells, mitochondria, essentially leading to cell death. The antioxidants in these foods will inhibit the free radicals before they can enforce any damage to cells.
Keeping a healthy blood sugar level is paramount to healthy gut and brain function. As sugar enters the body, your pancreas fires up insulin to transport the glucose (sugar) to your cells for energy. If the demand for insulin becomes extremely high the cell becomes resistant to insulin, the insulin builds up outside of the cell, like scar tissue, hindering the current of electricity (cell communication).
We know exercise burns calories and releases endorphins (happy hormones!), but it also helps strengthen our brain. When we do physical exercise our Cerebro-spinal pathway fires in order to coordinate and adjust our movements in order to complete the task. The more coordination you can challenge yourself with; ping pong, darts, or basketball, the more “strength” you can build in the brain. Exercise also protects the brain against free radicals, improves brain metabolism of cholesterol, improves oxygen levels to brain, and increases tone in blood vessels in the brain (this is vital to long term blood flow).
Lastly, find a hobby or an activity that you can fall in love with. This will give your brain the opportunity to shift away from the stresses and pressures we all face in life. Today’s world is fast and tough. Do something for yourself like hiking, joining a book club, or volunteering at a pet shelter where you can be in your element and meet like-minded people.
Taking pride in your brain can put anyone on the path to a long, happy life. It will give you the opportunity to embark on exciting journeys, a fulfilling career, and build strong personal relationships.