As we head down the path of life we may feel we are becoming forgetful, awkward and clumsy at times. We may become unnecessarily anxious and concerned and our thoughts may wander to loss of mental capacity, dementia and cognitive decline.
We have a tendency to be more concerned about our brain function than we do about our physical strength and mobility. It is generally accepted there is one common denominator that applies to both brain function, health and our strength and mobility, use it or you will lose it.
Brain atrophy is the result of cognitive inactivity and is as real as physical inactivity and muscular atrophy. Cast your mind back to walking your toddlers to the shops, this was very often a time consuming slow process, there and back; the combination of short legs and an insatiable appetite for all of the interesting minute things of interest. The bugs, flowers and obstacle’s to be overcome; things that we as adults brush over and ignore especially as we speed past on wheels of one form or another.
The first 30-40 years of our lives are spent filling the sponge that is our brain with the knowledge, skills and street smarts necessary for survival to feed, house and sustain ourselves. Our next phase of life is spent applying what we have learnt and cashing it in; through this phase of life we tend to accumulate stuff, property, toys and baggage etc. We are very often running on auto applying what we have learnt to earn our living, raise our offspring and manage our day to day lives. The stimulus and the thirst to break new ground and learn gradually wanes, this is the point in the life cycle where we may be increasing the risks of brain and structural atrophy.
It is important to stand back and have an objective look at ourselves and ask the question are we doing all we can to maintain our mental and physical well being. Some maintenance suggestions; regular walks at least three times a week for an hour or more, take the stairs rather than the elevator where possible both up and down, build exercise into housework, gardening, home maintenance even things like washing the car are good for both physical and mental health.
Develop activities that involve friends and family, Frisbee, dancing, trampolines, martial arts and incorporate humour and fun activities into yours and your families’ daily life. Laughter releases health promoting endorphins that slow the aging process while stress and anxiety accelerate the aging process.
Include brain rich foods in your diet like fish, grass-fed lean red meat, leafy green vegetables, legumes and nuts. Establish healthy sleep patterns avoid exposure to blue light in the bedrooms; sources of blue light maybe televisions, smart-phones, calculators and computer screens. Blue light is a signal to the brain and body functions that it is time to lift our sensory awareness for day time activities.
Challenge your brain with puzzles, games, crafts and hobbies; the more thinking the better. Take a different route each time you walk or drive in the car, vary the route between regular destinations, take the back roads and the side roads and keep life interesting, try different things.
Another interesting school of thought incorporates fasting as a regular routine throughout the year, not eating for 16 to 24 hours or even longer, you experience the benefit of a sharper brain and clearer thought processes. This probably goes back to our ancestors more primitive times when feast or famine was a regular feature of life. Hunger and the hunt were a very real necessity for survival, the genes of poor hunters were gradually removed from the gene pool and the accomplished hunters survived. After the hunt a period of feast followed a time to relax and enjoy; a phase of inactivity and lethargy that was followed by hunger and the cycle repeats.