With the launch of my new blog series, we took a dive into all things brain health, but why does brain health matter? Weighing in at about three pounds, our brain is the most complex organ of the body. Although our brains are essentially composed of the same basic anatomical circuits, our interactions within our brains vary significantly. The person-to-person variations are displayed in our human behavior and shaped through our experiences.
The 1990s were dubbed The Decade of the Brain and today, the Brain Initiative still explores the unknowns of the brain. “Our brains make us who we are, enabling us to perceive beauty, teach our children, remember loved ones, react against injustice, learn from history, and imagine a different future.” Our brain’s activities (along with our nervous system), our differences, our similarities, and our behaviors are studied by the field of neuroscience and more!
It is not uncommon to hear a mention of the brain, mind, or neuroscience in the news, newspaper, radio, or social media on a day-to-day basis in some way shape or form (other than reading an EngAGE Your Brain blog!). Let us see if you start to notice your brain in the news more often.
This exercise is a simple yet interactive way to engage your brain. Keeping a task top of mind (a brain news story) and recalling it to make a connection with new information that you are being exposed to is a way to keep engaged. Exposure to new information in an enriched environment is key to spark neurogenesis, the growth of new neurons. It is a common myth of aging that the brain lacks the ability to grow new neurons after childhood or adolescence.
In May 2019, Lazarov and colleagues found new neuron growth in the hippocampus, the area of the brain commonly associated with memory and learning, among participants in their tenth decade of life (their 90s) and among individuals with mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. We are still learning information about an aging brain, but one important thing remains… our brains do not know our age! Additional research-informed tips to promote neurogenesis focus on aspects of a brain-healthy lifestyle that include: a healthy diet, physical exercise and natural movement, limiting alcohol consumption and smoking, and meditation.
The way in which we live our lives can impact and shape our brains and bodies. Neuroplasticity is our brain’s ability to adapt to change. This is an ongoing process that forms neural connections.“You are stuck with the brain that you were born with” is another myth of aging. Luckily, our brains are constantly reorganizing information throughout our lives, so we can make new connections, adjustments and changes.
I mention the concepts of neurogenesis and neuroplasticity as the “why” to your brain health. Your brain’s ability to change and grow new neurons is lifelong and occurs for individuals with chronic and acute health conditions, including brain-related diagnoses. Brain health is 70% lifestyle and 30% genetics; how you interpret this statistic is up to you.
I did not have a choice with my gene pool. Did you? Now, I know I cannot point a finger at my family genes for too many things other than not being as tall as I would have hoped. Now, my dear grandmother insisted I would “stretch out.” I’m fairly certain we all know which way I am more inclined to stretch with aging if I am not careful, and it is not taller!
Nonetheless, there are many things I am able to tackle through my lifestyle and daily decisions to support my brain wellness. My goal is to make one decision each day that is better for my brain and body. These small, daily decisions can lead to a larger impact over time, which we will explore in an upcoming blog after the New Year.
In the meantime, I hope you will make your brain health a priority and not an option. Not sure where to start? Review What is Brain Health for some lifestyle ideas. Pick one and make one better decision for your wellbeing every day. Take notice of the difference. Your brain and body will thank you. Please share your thoughts, comments, suggestions, and brain news in the comments section below.
In brain health & wellness,