Let’s face it, it’s not the sexiest of topics.
When I opened up the last of my Institute for Integrative Nutrition modules this morning and saw two long lectures waiting for me on this topic, I wasn’t exactly dancing around the study with glee.
But I love learning about all things health-related. So why not the brain? Because it’s tucked away? Because I believe I won’t have to worry about dementia or anything like it for years?
I buckle down and start the lecture, and the first slide is shocking.
Alzheimers affects 50% of people over the age of 85, and degeneration typically begins 30 years before that. Woah.
I sit up and pay attention, and notice that this Lecturer has swagger. 58-years-old and more vibrant than most of the 38-year-olds I know. His Bio reads:
Daniel Amen, MD, is a physician, double-board certified psychiatrist, teacher, and eight-time New York Times bestselling author – including Magnificent Mind at Any Age and Change Your Brain, Change Your Life. He is widely regarded as one of the world’s foremost experts on applying brain imaging science to everyday clinical practice. Dr. Amen is the founder of Amen Clinics, which have the world’s largest database of functional brain scans relating to behavior, and a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.
What’s even more interesting is what comes up next. Actual brain scans.
At the risk of going all Grey’s Anatomy on you, have you ever seen anything so cool (or scary)?
Remember, as you look at these scans, that your brain is involved in everything you do.
How you think, feel, act, and interact. It’s your organ for intelligence, character, creativity, planning, and decision-making.
And it’s not just Alzheimers or being over 85 that we need to worry about:
As an ex-party-girl, this picture really hit home for me. How much damage have I done to myself during my reckless years? What would my scan look like?
Dr Amen goes on to list all of the factors that accelerate brain ageing, including:
:: Poor diet
:: Lack of exercise
:: Unhealthy peer group
:: Drugs & alcohol
:: Sleep apnea
Ok, enough doom and gloom. So what’s the good news?
The great news< is that for the most part, our brain health is in our own hands. Degeneration, as shown in the scans above, is entirely reversible. Phew!
So let’s get that grey matter healthy, shall we? Here’s how to show your brain you love and respect her:
1. It may sound obvious, but protect your brain. Wear a helmet. Don’t smack your head on the pavement, or anywhere else, if you can avoid it. Limit mobile phone conversations.
2. Avoid toxins, especially toxic fumes. Try natural cleaning products. Use natural hair dyes (like henna), and relish the natural nail look. Quit those cigarettes for good, and if (like me) you love vino, choose an organic variety and limit the number of glasses you indulge in.
3. Embrace a healthier lifestyle. The brain needs and uses 25% of all the calories we consume, so make them count! Eat whole, unprocessed foods and organic where possible. Increase your intake of Omega 3s (chia, hemp, flax and sesame seeds are great plant-based sources) and green tea. Drink plenty of filtered water and get plenty of fresh air. Maintain a healthy BMI. Find exercise you enjoy and get your grin on several times a week.
4. If you believe you may have a food sensitivity or allergy, get tested, or try an elimination diet. Gluten and dairy, in particular, seem to cause issues in a lot of people.
5. Get enough rest. Adequate ‘down time’ is extremely important for brain health. Aim for a full 8 hours of sleep every night.
6. Foster a positive attitude. Find ways to manage stress (like taking walks in nature). Spend time with positive people, and read uplifting articles. Learn new skills, and enjoy new hobbies and adventures. Practice gratitude every single day.
Let’s end with a happy snap! Meet 55-year-old Business Professor, Andy. After receiving the bad news scan on the left in 1999, he embarked on a healthy new lifestyle. 11 years later, his brain is looking rather plump and lovely indeed.
And that’s sexy.