Exercising and keeping your brain active is just as important as training the rest of your body to prevent disease and increase your cognitive reserve. Keep your brain healthy with these simple habits.
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LatinAmerican Post | Erika Benítez
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How many times have you gone blank trying to find the right word to complete a sentence? Or are you going somewhere and forget what you were going to do? If you've noticed that you forget things easily, it's time to pay more attention to your brain health. Currently, there are multiple factors that contribute to our brain being affected and not working properly.
Fortunately, the human brain has the capacity to continue to develop throughout life. Just like physical exercise, exercising the mind is essential to have a better quality of life and be healthier. To achieve this, you need to get out of your comfort zone. Once we are used to a certain task, we do it automatically; the mind needs new challenges and learn new things every day to be stimulated and enhance its functionality.
Why is it important to take care of brain health?
The brain is the most complex and powerful organ in the human body, it is capable of processing sensory data and keeping all the vital functions of our body under control. It controls how we move, how we talk, breathe, digest food, and how our hearts work. Thanks to it, we control what we think, feel, what we learn and remember.
With the passage of time, our brain, like the other organs of the body, deteriorates. Our mind slows down, and it becomes more and more difficult to learn new things. Lifestyles (diet, exercise, circadian rhythms, etc.), the environment that surrounds us, interpersonal relationships and genetic predisposition are factors that influence our brain health.
This is why more and more people are concerned about maintaining mental activity and thus preventing cognitive deterioration associated with aging and responsible for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and senile dementia. According to the WHO, currently, more than 55 million people have dementia worldwide and each year, there are almost ten million new cases.
The good news is that, although we cannot stop time, there are several mental training guidelines that you can follow in your day to day to exercise your brain and get the most out of it. So, these are some habits that, according to studies from the Harvard Medical School, are essential to keep your brain healthy.
Resting is essential
Not resting or sleeping enough (between 7 and 8 hours), can affect the functioning of your brain. During sleep, it works to strengthen the connections between brain cells and its different regions, that is, when you sleep, the information you have learned is consolidated and stored in long-term memory. Proper sleep hygiene is essential for the brain to function properly.
Exercise your body
As repetitive as it sounds, constant physical exercise is very important to maintain good health in all senses. When we practice physical activities,the heart rate increases, which pumps more oxygen to the brain and facilitates the release of countless hormones, which in turn stimulate and promote the growth of brain cells.
Similarly, regular exercise improves your mood, helps you sleep better, reduces stress and anxiety. Problems related to these areas often play a role in cognitive decline. It has been shown that the brains of people who exercise regularly shrink less with age than those of sedentary people.
You can also read: Five Sports that Will Boost Your Mental Health
Healthy diet plays a key role
A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, vegetables, and fish will favor the transport of oxygen and the necessary nutrients for the functioning of your brain. According to the Harvard Health publication, foods linked to less cognitive decline include kale, spinach, fruits like strawberries and blueberries, and foods high in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, mackerel, walnuts).
It also includes foods that contain vitamin B5, since it favors the functioning of the cognitive system. You can find it in broccoli, chicken, egg yolks, milk, mushrooms, among others.
Learn to manage stress
When you're under a lot of stress, your brain focuses on figuring out what's going on and what you should do, thus deemphasizing retrieval of consciousness and memories. In other words, stress complicates the retrieval of information stored in the brain. Mindfulness or full attention is a meditation technique that has gained strength for stress management. This helps us avoid distractions or stressful thoughts, developing areas of the brain associated with attention.
Another important recommendation to keep your brain young has to do with constant brain stimulation. Learning new activities that force us to think and require practice can be one of the best ways to keep our brains healthy. Acquiring new knowledge, learning another language, reading, playing an instrument, memorizing facts, board games and puzzles are activities that require us to plan, organize and execute. In particular, reading is a very beneficial practice for the brain, since it increases emotional functioning and promotes concentration.
Finally, it is worth mentioning that the current dependence on technology is the main threat to our mental and brain health. A good exercise is to establish “blank spaces” in your daily routine, in which you do not use the phone for at least 30 minutes. This will help improve memory skills and information retention.
Regarding this relevant topic, today, July 22, the World Federation of Neurology (WFN) celebrates World Brain Day. Its main objective is to highlight the importance of disease prevention and raise awareness about brain health. For the 2023 term, the central theme is brain health and disability.