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by Khyati Kapur
Are you guided by emotions or logic? Do you make decisions with your heart or your head? Turns out, if you don’t take care of one, it may very well impact the other! Scientific research is discovering just how closely our minds and our bodies are connected.
In this article, we’ll provide a layman’s description of optimal brain health and explore how your lifestyle decisions are crucial to your health and your brain’s performance. One important note; although we tend to think of cognitive decline as occurring later in life, we’ll propose a strategy of interventions, risk aversion, and positive protocols to be considered in young adulthood and perhaps as far back as childhood.
The brain, made up of more than 100 billion nerves that communicate in trillions of connections called synapses, is one of the largest and most complex organs in the human body. The brain controls our thoughts, logic and judgment, memory and speech, movement, and is responsible for the function of our organs.
It’s easy to see why brain health is so essential and why it receives so much attention. At its most basic, brain health relates to the ability to think, to remember, to continue to learn, to concentrate, and maintain a clear, agile mind. As to optimal brain health …
The National Institute of Health states “optimal brain health may be defined at any life stage as average performance levels among all people at that age who are free of known brain or other organ system disease in terms of decline from previously documented levels of function or as adequacy to perform all activities that the individual wishes to undertake.”
A layman’s definition of optimal brain health might be stated as, “average brain performance for all people of the same age who do not have any brain disease (or other major organ diseases), who are not experiencing any declines in cognition, and who can perform normal brain activities.” We hope that explanation is a bit easier to understand.
Poor cardiovascular health is very closely related to cognitive impairment. The brain depends upon an adequate supply of oxygen and glucose, delivered via blood flow from the cardiovascular system to operate normally. As such, the cardiovascular risks associated with hypertension, diabetes, obesity, physical inactivity, smoking, and depression are all associated with declining brain health.
Did we mention lifestyle choices - obesity, inactivity, and smoking are each, to varying degrees, a matter of choice? And, that there are positive intervention factors that can help lessen the onset of hypertension, diabetes, and depression.
Search the web, and you’ll find numerous articles about cardiovascular and brain health and positive regimens to incorporate into your life to delay the onset of cognitive decline. We’ve prepared a recap of some of these positive protocols. Our focus will be slightly different than other mainstream articles as we believe in the critical importance of diet in both cardiovascular and brain health. As mentioned in our intro, we think to incorporate these protocols at a younger age, perhaps as early as childhood can have enormous benefits later in life.
As you review our list, we ask that you consider how you might apply these recommendations to your lifestyle, and that of your children.
To be sure, there are other positive protocols for heart and brain health, but we believe these are the most important pillars.
It’s the diet! We hear from professional athletes how their performance improves once they dial in the diet. Trainers in the gym will tell you it’s as much as 85% diet and 15% training. The same applies to general health. The proper diet can help you reduce the potential for high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and elevated cholesterol and blood sugar levels, all risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
We recommend a diet rich in fish, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, olives, and nuts to help maintain heart and brain health. A Mediterranean-style diet may be ideal. Fresh, organic, non-GMO, and plant-based proteins should also be staples.
As to that mind and body connection, nutrition and diet are crucial for both.
by Khyati Kapur