Maintaining a Healthy Brain
Let's face it, our brain runs our body. Everything we do from sleeping to running is handled by our brain. Our brain performs thousands of functions per day that support our structural system, our metabolism, and our development. The human brain is considered larger than other mammals because it actually uses between 20 and 25% of our metabolism, 20% of the oxygen we inhale, uses over a hundred thousand miles of blood vessels, is over 60% fat, and weighs approximately 3 pounds.
Our brain is made up of cells which are generally either neurons or glial cells. Glial cells tend to be responsible for the body maintaining homeostasis, supplying neurons with nutrients and oxygen, performing housekeeping duties by removing dead neurons and destroying pathogens that are out to destroy healthy cells, as well as keeping our neurons insulated so they don't run into each other.
Neurons however, are how our brain communicates through a series of electrical and chemical signals. Each nerve cell or neuron has a receiving and sending end. One end of the neuron receives an electrical or chemical signal from another neuron while the other end of the neuron sends the chemical or electrical signal to the next neuron. Nerve cells are not connected and the space between the nerve cells is known as the synapse. Nerve cells are all different sizes and some nerves cells that are larger, have a myelin sheath on them which allows the electrical or chemical signal to travel quickly along the nerve. Neurons or I should say bundles of neurons that are surrounded by a myelin sheath are white and make up the white matter of our brain. Each neuron has its own unique receptors allowing different neurons to have different functions and hence the body performs! Truly a miracle!
Tips for Optimizing Brain Health
So, now that you know a little bit about how our brain works, I bet you are wondering what you can do to keep it in tip top shape! Doing a combination of the below items such as exercising, eating right, and being social has a higher impact collectively on brain health.
Exercise - You can start by making sure you exercise and stay physically fit. Physical fitness isn't just for the body. It has been shown through studies that those who are physically fit tend to have higher IQ's, are betting in math and science and have more brain cells.
Socialize - Those who tend to interact with others tend to have healthier brains. So if you are not socially active think about becoming a volunteer in your local community, join a club who plays games like dominoes, bridge or pinochle. Take a ballroom dancing class. If you are a workaholic, get more active in work - join the work softball team.
Brainercises - Exercise your brain and read books, work on crossword puzzles, word searches or sudokos instead of just sitting around watching t.v.
Eat Healthy - Nutrient Dense Foods - High in Omega 3's and Antioxidants. Our brain needs oxygen, water, and nutrients to convert to energy to perform its multitude of functions. Make sure your food counts. Eat a healthy balance of protein, fat, and complex carbohydrates. Give your brain the food it needs to function! Don't feed it simple carbohydrates, although they seem to be a quick fix for energy, they provide no Omega 3's and no nutrients which the brain needs to be healthy.
Below is a picture showing 13 Super Brain Foods and what those foods should provide from the Nature's Sunshine Blog. Your foods should include omega 3's, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, and promote circulation. These foods include fish, turmeric, mushrooms, avocados, nuts, seeds, quinoa, green tea, sweet potato, extra virgin olive oil, cruciferous vegetables, and berries.
Supporting your body with daily nutrients like Super Trio which includes a daily multi vitamin, super antioxidant blend and omega 3's will also help support a healthy mind. For more information, you may want to also read our Newsletter on Mending the Mind for more tips on keeping your brain healthy.
Infographic taken from Nature's Sunshine Blog - 13 Super Brain Foods.
Written by Mara Gerke, CA, CNHP, All Rights Reserved.