JUNE ‘22 Health & Wellbeing Blog! What We Consume & How It Affects Our Brain & Mental Health!
What We Consume & How It Affects Our Brain & Mental Health!
This month’s blog came to mind after watching a lecture online by Dr Daniel Amen. Dr Amen and his colleagues have access to over 80,000 brain scans dating back many years which allows him to accurately see how the human brain is affected by how we look after ourselves and what we put into our bodies. Obviously, there are many factors which adversely affect the brain which can be clearly seen on a brain scan including injury/trauma to the brain, living in a toxic environment, alcohol etc.
DID YOU KNOW???…The human brain has approximately 100 Billion nerve cells, these nerve cells can have up to 10,000 individual connections. This means that we have more connections within our brains as there are stars in the universe! It’s no surprise that the human brain is the most complex thing in the universe, information can travel around a healthy brain at approximately 268 miles per hour.
With this in mind (no pun intended), it is clearly worth looking after our brains as best as we possibly can. Our brain accounts for only 2% of our body weight, but uses between 20-30% of the total calories we consume! If our brain consumes up to a third of our daily calories, do you think the nutritional value of these calories are hugely important for proper brain function? Absolutely they are!
Dr Amen’s studies have proven that you can accelerate the ageing process of the brain with our life choices, or you can vastly decelerate the overall ageing and deterioration process of the brain with more positive and productive choices.
As Dr Amen says – “the 2 glasses of Red Wine each day that may be good the heart, are certainly not good for the brain”.
So what can we do to improve our brain health?
SLEEP & RELAXATION
Countless studies have shown that not enough sleep and rest will adversely affect memory processing and other cognitive functions. A good night’s sleep is not just essential for us physically, but also allows our brains to work correctly. Getting a good night’s sleep every night is vital to our brain’s health and ultimately how we will feel throughout the day. Try setting up a regular sleep schedule, I try to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up around the same time. Sometimes life gets in the way of this but being as consistent as possible over time will pay dividends.
Meditation can improve the parts of your brain that is responsible for attention, learning, memory and much more. Daily meditation has now been shown to improve brain function within the areas that are responsible for stress, empathy and self-worth which can be shown on a brain scan over time. All it takes is 10 minutes per day to show benefits, there are many different ways and techniques to meditate. Maybe this could be a future blog in itself but for now it is worth looking at YouTube videos for guided meditation, give it a try!
Similar to one of the ‘5 ways to wellbeing’ that I wrote about in last month’s blog; social interaction and staying connected. Social interaction will make you feel happier and improve your mood as it will promote a sense of safety, belonging and security – all of this can also lower your chances of dementia and mental decline as it enhances cognitive function and allows your mind to stay agile. So, talk and interact with family, friends and colleagues regularly to keep the mind healthy.
You all know that physical exercise is probably what I speak about more than any other subject, I could go on for an eternity talking about the benefits but let’s take a look at the most pertinent points linked to brain health. Firstly, physical exercise increases the heart rate which will, in turn, pump more oxygen to the brain. Exercise actually helps to grow new connections within the brain, therefore increasing the all-important brain plasticity. One of the greatest benefits however, is the anti-depressant effect that exercise has on the brain by the release of certain ‘feel-good’ hormones and dropping stress hormones. All it takes is a bit of stretching, a short walk, chair exercises or even a bit of gardening in the sun. Compare how you felt before exercising and then how you feel immediately after.
FOOD & NUTRITION
Another favourite of mine to talk about! Whatever food and drink we consume each day, doesn’t just affect our physical health, but has a massive impact on our mental health & wellbeing. Eating a diet that is rich in nutrients will allow you to think clearer, improve your mood, give you more energy and enhance the connections within the brain. Mood swings can often be attributed to by blood sugar fluctuations and nutrient deficits, studies have recently shown.
Here is a list of foods that are excellent for brain function;
- Green Leafy Vegetables : This includes foods such as Broccoli, Spinach and Kale which are superfoods for the brain as they are extremely rich in vitamin K and beta carotene.
- Fish : Or to be more precise – Fatty fish such as Salmon, Mackerel, Tuna and Cod are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids which have literal brainpower qualities. Eating fatty fish a couple of times a week is highly recommended.
- Blueberries : These are not only a tasty treat, but are absolutely loaded with anti-oxidants which counteract stress and inflammation, both of which effect brain ageing.
- Dark Chocolate : Yes, believe it or not, chocolate makes the list! Unfortunately, I am not talking about a bar of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk or the ultimate – Wispa Gold 😊 Only Dark Chocolate which has a greater Cocoa content than 70% makes the list. This is because it contains flavonoids and anti-oxidants, and flavonoids in particular can help slow down age related brain deterioration.
- Walnuts : They sometimes say that the clue is how the food looks as to how it benefits you, is there any better example than a Walnut and how it literally looks like a mini brain? Walnuts are full of fatty acids, vitamin E and anti-oxidants which as discussed, are hugely beneficial to brain function.
I hope you gained some benefit from this blog and I look forward to engaging with you all in the future.
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