We all know the feeling of losing our keys, or walking into a room only to realise we don’t remember why. At work, we may lose focus, doze off in meetings, or forget important tasks. These instances can occur more frequently as we age, and can be frightening. Factors in alertness and brain function include traumatic brain injury, past or present substance abuse, nutrition, and many other lifestyle factors such as sleep and exercise,
New studies show, however, that some damage or aging of the brain can be slowed or reversed. Parts of the brain can rebuild lost cells. Neuroplasticity is a term used to describe the ability of the brain to create new connections, or synapses, when we learn new skills, even some video games in moderation. Another skill that has been proven to assist the brain is learning a new language–even just learning a variety of vocabulary words. Crossword puzzles are often cited as a way to keep the mind sharp, but learning different kinds of skills is better. Game apps are available on smartphones, and lumosity.com advertises a whole brain enhancing program tailored to your individual needs.
Neurological diseases of the brain have not had great medical advances in some years. There is seemingly no hope once contracting Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, or multiple sclerosis. But who contracts these diseases, and why? And can all of us take measures in younger years to extend brain health for as long as possible? The answer is a resounding yes–Smoking, hypertension, Type II Diabetes, alcohol use, high cholesterol, obesity, and lack of exercise are avoidable risk factors in these diseases.
In wealthier nations over the past 20 years, incidence of brain disease as a cause of death has increased dramatically. America is the leader in this regard. Headaches, autism, and depression are also on the rise. Is it due to our diets, pollution, stress, or something else?
I attended a lecture a few years ago on neurofeedback, a therapy on using training to fine-tune the brain that has attention disorders. When the doctor presenter asked for a volunteer, my hand shot up. I had been reading the work of Dr. Daniel Amen, brain doctor and frequent PBS lecturer. Dr. Amen has been working with NFL football players and their brain function following head injuries, which are common in American football. I had wanted to have a brain scan, my interest brought about by a severe brain injury many years ago and my concern about aftereffects. In addition, three members of my family have Parkinson’s Disease.
With electrodes pasted to my scalp, the whole room watched my brain waves on a projection screen. The doctor pointed out that of the four main brain wave frequencies, alpha, beta, theta, and delta, some of mine were higher than normal and some lower, which could explain my frequent tiredness and lack of attention. I had also been prescribed a medication that would make the situation worse. He indicated that I could certainly get some help from neurofeedback that works by training your brain to be in a more relaxed brain wave frequency so that you can focus on a task.
There are things you can do at home to guard the health of your brain. Basic healthy living goes a long way as does positive thinking. Whole foods (things with one ingredient–like apples, chicken, or rice), avoiding processed foods, non-foods, and soft drinks; adequate sleep, exercise, and learning new skills will all do great things for your brain and your overall wellness. A diet filled with lean proteins, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, and healthy fats found in salmon, walnuts, and avocados is ideal. Sufficient water is also a must since our bodies, even our brains, contain a high percentage of water (around 85%).
Guard your brain health now for a long and active life.