When it comes to the brain, size matters. You do not want a smaller brain. Things that can reduce the size of your brain include brain injury, alcohol, not enough sleep, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, lack of exercise, negative thoughts, diet and obesity. You can accelerate the age of your brain and reduce it’s function through these factors but you also have the capability to decelerate it’s age by reducing these factors. The common thread that I see to help reduce all of these risks, of course I do, is exercise. Exercise and a little self discipline. Due to the plasticity of the brain, or it’s ability to change, you can make improvements to it within 2 months of changing to a healthier lifestyle.
Avoiding high concussion risk activities such as football, wearing a helmet for activities such as cycling or skiing, limiting alcohol, quitting smoking, adopting good sleep habits and limiting unhealthy foods all fall in the self discipline category. Exercise can reduce high blood pressure and diabetes, improve your sleep and help you maintain a healthy weight. Avoiding obesity can benefit the brain. Avoid obesity through healthy food choices and moderate, physical activity on a regular basis. Obesity reduces the size of your brain. As your weight goes up, the size of your brain goes down. This was shown through 10 studies done in the U.S. using brain scan information. Definitely keep your brain young by always learning knew things but also keep your brain young through physical activity. Cardiovascular fitness activities are the best for heart health but they are also the best for brain health. Keep the blood and oxygen flowing to the brain through activities which elevate the heart and breathing rates.
Getting less than 7 hours of sleep on a regular basis can lower the blood flow to the brain. This is detrimental to brain health over time. The brain needs blood flow and the oxygen that travels with it. Not getting enough sleep also causes weight gain as poor food choice cravings increase. Your metabolism also gets out of wack due to poor sleep habits. Physical activity helps you rest at night. Especially if you avoid caffeine after 3 p.m. and increase your water intake. Activities such as restorative yoga and meditation can also promote sleep. Meditation improves brain function because it activates the front part of the brain which is the thoughtful part of the brain. While meditation can teach relaxation and learning to “chill out” it also actually activates the brain.
Avoiding negative thoughts was mentioned as a factor in brain health. For some people these are automatic and very difficult to reduce. They are referred to as “ANT’s” or automatic negative thoughts. Too many of these, too often can lead to anxiety and depression. One way to kill the “ANT’s” is to question the thought and not believe every negative thought you have. Tell yourself that’s not true and write down the reasons it isn’t. Also write down things you are grateful for on a daily basis. Exercise can also help reduce negative thoughts as it produces the “feel good” hormones. You begin to feel better about yourself. Depression can also be lessened. Certainly seek professional help for anxiety or depression. Final note, hang out with upbeat positive people who practice healthy habits. People are contagious, choose wisely.