In 2011, it was estimated that nearly 747,000 Canadians were living with cognitive impairment, including dementia and Alzheimer’s. By 2031, if nothing changes in Canada, this figure is expected to rise to 1.4 million.
According to Dementia Support, the cause of this explosive growth is two-fold:
1) The population is growing, which has resulted in the increase of dementia cases.
2) In 2011, baby boomers began reaching the age of 65. Dementia rates are expected to increase substantially as Boomers continue to age until roughly 2040.
While age plays into cognitive decline, scientific studies have shown that the lifestyle choices we make every day such as: diet, exercise, and sleep impact our brain function.
Poor decisions in these areas can have a negative impact on the health of our brains, and put us at risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. So, it is very important that we exercise both our bodies and our brains to keep healthy and fit as we age.
The 3 Essentials for Brain Health
There are many things we can do to ensure brain health. This blog addresses the 3 most important: oxygen, proper fuel and stimulation.
One of the most vital nutrients for the brain is oxygen. It is a main ingredient in the creation of energy. All living creatures breathe, so we must have plenty of oxygen for the brain…right? Wrong!
Just because we breathe to survive does not mean that we are breathing for overall health. We can change how we breathe, and to an extent change how breathing affects our bodies.
Controlled breathing, also known as “paced respiration,” “diaphragmatic breathing” and “deep breathing,” has been shown to decrease stress and anxiety, improve digestion, promote alertness and concentration, cleanses cells, improves quality of sleep and so much more.
How can you tell if you aren’t getting enough oxygen? Symptoms of poor circulation and blood flow to the brain include:
• Low brain endurance and poor focus and concentration
• Need to exercise or drink coffee to improve brain function
• Cold hands and feet
• Poor nail health or fungal growth on toes
• Must wear socks at night
• White nail beds instead of bright pink
• Cold tip of nose
Keeping your blood pressure in check with proper diet and exercise, avoiding smoking or other substances, keeping stress to a minimum and engaging in deep breathing for at least ten minutes a day will also help to ensure that the brain receives the appropriate amount of oxygen it needs for its neurons to function optimally.
2) Proper Fuel
In order for the body to function, it needs fuel. This is where proteins, carbs and fats come in play. When we consume these 3 macronutrients the body will “pull” energy from them.
The body uses 2 types of fuel: glucose and ketones. Glucose from either the breakdown of carbs or proteins and ketones from the breakdown of fats.
With our current diet, glucose is readily available and unless someone is following a ketogenic diet (high fat diet-low sugar diet), glucose is the main fuel use for most people. Stabilizing blood sugar is therefore key. How do you know if your blood glucose is stable?
When you eat you should feel like you are no longer hungry and your energy should remain the same. If you feel more energized after a meal, this could mean that you suffer from hypoglycemia. If your energy decreases (feel like falling asleep) this could be a sign that you suffer from insulin sensitivity.
One important caveat with glucose is that if consumed in large quantity it can get oxidized and create inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation of the brain can lead to conditions such as cognitive decline, dementia and Alzheimer. For this reason, a diet that is lower in sugar, moderate in protein and higher in good fats like avocados, olive oil or nuts is essential to optimal brain health.
The saying “use it or you lose it” comes strongly into play when it comes to healthy brain function.
Just like how muscles need resistance training to stay strong, the brain’s neural connections do too.
The more stimulation and challenge is given to the brain, the faster the synapses become, the better information is acquired, and the less the chance of memory loss and brain degeneration.
Never stop learning, studies have shown that advanced education is associated with stronger memory as a person ages. Just because you aren’t in school doesn’t mean you can’t keep learning; an old dog can learn new tricks! Read a book. Watch online talks or tutorials. Pick up a new hobby. Take a class at a local community college.
The best courses are those that are both mentally and socially demanding, like photography or quilting. These types of courses give you the added benefit of meeting new people and forming new friendships! The point is to constantly have those neurons firing.
How Else Can You Strengthen the Brain?
Use BrainTap! With the increasing research in neurofeedback technology and brain therapies, Dr. Patrick Porter has put together the ultimate brain-training system; BrainTap Technologies.
BrainTap technologies is a powerfully effective mind development tool designed to help you overcome the ill effects of the fight-or-flight response while achieving physical, mental and emotional balance. Using guided imagery, acupressure points, binaural sounds, and light frequencies to help balance the communication of the right and left brain, BrainTap helps us to relax, reboot and strengthen busy brains. Want to learn more? Visit my BrainTap page here!