What Is Brain Health? How to Keep Your Brain Healthy
Nut, noggin, noodle, however you refer to the brain, it is without a doubt the reason why we are so successful as a species. Our cerebral powers enable us to function on fundamental processes, like sleeping, eating and movement, on a daily basis. It helps us to comprehend our environment, conversations, emotions and puzzles. Here at Nature’s Best® we interpret brain health to mean nurturing and supporting the skills and basic functions our brains perform, but also to optimise its ability to continually learn and cope with modern day challenges; some physical, some mental and some emotional. If the brain is healthy, then the choices we make and the strength we possess can be effective in our everyday lives. As we transition into maturing years brain health becomes a more prevalent subject. Perhaps our perception of a healthy brain changes with age? When considered, does memory, judgement and perspective come higher on the list of capabilities to preserve? We’d like to explore the wonders of the brain in this brochure and invite you to take a look at ways in which you can help support you and your family’s cognitive health, no matter what the age.
How does the brain work?
Now this is never going to be a short answer or win awards! However, we will try and put it as succinctly as we can. Imagine that your brain is a factory, each with unique departments that have to work collectively to produce a product. The brain is divided into three departments; the forebrain, the midbrain and the hindbrain – easy right? The hindbrain controls vital body functions such as breathing and heart rate. The midbrain is responsible for hearing, motor control, vision and temperature regulation. And finally, the forebrain processes cognitive activities, sensory and voluntary motor responses. All these departments are connected to the spinal cord (for the purpose of this analogy, the spinal cord is a delivery van) and a network of nerves (roads) and together they convey and receive information (the product) from other areas of the body. This is of course a terribly simplistic view of how the brain works but it does outline that the brain is the control centre of the body and that it needs to be healthy to ensure “products” are made and received so that we can function.
What affects brain health?
This may be an obvious question for the health conscious amongst us but there are influences that may be less cogent. Exceeding safe alcohol limits regularly, partaking in recreational drug use, smoking and eating a poor diet are the least brain friendly pastimes you can partake in. Less innocuous activities which unbalance a healthy brain are disturbed sleep, too little exercise, high blood pressure and simply not engaging your grey matter. These considerations put brain health at the forefront of the agenda, as they are very common factors that can affect even the most virtuous of us.
How does blood pressure affect brain health?
Maintaining healthy blood pressure can avert narrowing of and damage to blood vessels in the brain, say Blood Pressure UKi. Having consistently raised blood pressure increases the risk of blood vessels becoming obstructed or rupturing. The effects of this damage may alter a person’s speech, memory or thinking. It may also bring confusion and difficulty with comprehension. Living a health-conscious lifestyle is the best method of prevention, and small changes can make a big difference.
Be more active
Maintain a healthy weight
How does sleep affect brain health?
When we sleep the brain doesn’t just switch off, it begins a cleaning and restorative process. Getting a good night’s sleep allows the brain to perform vital housekeeping tasks, such as washing waste from the brain by using cerebral spinal fluid. This task is possible only when we sleep as brain cells reduce in size, opening channels between cells allowing fluid to pass through and sweep toxins away that build up during the day. With this knowledge it’s not difficult to understand how a poor night’s sleep can interrupt this important work and result in brain fug in the morning. Catching those valuable zzzzz’s also serve as time for the brain to ingrain information taken in throughout the day and preserve important memories. After quality rest the brain performs better, memory and focus, accuracy and creativity all benefit. So, pull up a pillow, diffuse some soothing lavender oil and slip in to brain supporting slumber.
Alcohol and the effects it can have on your brain
The jury seems to be at a stale mate on this topic. Coverage in the media encourage that a little of what you fancy does you good, and then the next day abstinence is back in favour. Whatever your view, getting sozzled may be fun but the hangover the next day is evidence enough that your brain wasn’t in on the party! According to drinkaware.co.uk alcohol interferes with brain chemistry, upsetting basic functions such as thoughts and feelingsii. Memory is also impaired, and judgement can be affected too. The brains processes slow down and short-term memory can even fail completely. It is sensible advice that to preserve your precious mind, drink responsibly and follow recommended alcohol guidelines.
Socialising and brain health
There is a lot to be said about happiness affecting brain health. Connecting with family, friends or like-minded people can provide a wealth of brain loving endorphins. Being a socially active person can protect your mental wellbeing. And on the flip side, loneliness can have a detrimental effect on cognitive health. Isolation is up there as a health risk along with obesity and stress, resulting in low moods and a decline in brain activity and health. Volunteering is heralded for being an excellent way to support brain health. give back to get back is the mantra here. Staying connected is how our species evolved and thrived, the same principle applies today. To live a happy life and maintain optimum cognitive condition we need to spend time with people, laugh, share memories, learn new things together, history knows we’re good at it!
Companionship takes many forms, and one never to be undervalued is the comfort that pets lend to our wellbeing. Our furry friends create routine and need our attention, which adds structure to our day and gives a sense of purpose. They are perfect motivators for a daily exercise regime, who could deny those ‘love me eyes’! And can soothe away owner’s tensions by stroking or playing with them. It is widely recognised that animals have a positive impact on our mental health, and there are programmes in place where animals visit patients in hospitals and residents in assisted living, to help lift their spirits and improve their quality of life.
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Keri Filtness has worked in the Nutrition Industry for 19 years. She is regularly called upon for her professional comments on health and nutrition related news. Her opinions have been featured by BBC3, Prima, Vitality, The Mirror, Woman’s Own and Cycling Weekly, amongst others. She has also worked one to one with journalists, analysing their diets and health concerns and recommending changes and additions, where appropriate.