13 – 19 March 2018 is Brain Awareness week, so it’s time to start thinking about the vital part of you that makes thought possible.
Despite being one of the most complex organs in the known universe, a healthy brain only really requires three things: the right nutrition, exercise, and to get regular mental workouts.
Your brain loves fat
Brains are hungry, and despite their small size, demand a staggering 20% of our resting metabolic rate. The best thing to feed our insatiable grey matter is fat – not the kind you find at the bottom of the paper wrapping of your kebab though.
Monounsaturated fats, like those found in avocado, nuts, olive oil, fish and chia seeds, are great for brain health. So next time you’re looking for a smart snack, dig into a salmon and walnut salad or add chia seeds to your morning smoothie.
Your brain loves exercise
Getting the best out of your body and your brain requires sweating a little every week. Exercise increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain, and helps create and strengthen neural pathways, and provides huge benefits to cognitive function later in life.
Two longitudinal studies showed that subjects who exercised regularly performed better at verbal memory, psychomotor speeds, and executive function tests, as well as having less risk of developing dementia!
Pumping iron can steel your brain now and in the long term, so the best time to get back into a regular routine is today!
Your brain loves challenges
Challenges, like puzzles, learning new skills or receiving and using new information, are like exercises for the brain. When confronted with new stimuli, your brain has to use or create neural pathways to figure out the best, most efficient way to solve the problem.
Unfortunately, your brain is brutal with its energy usage, so it plays by a strict ‘use-it-or-lose-it’ rule.
Luckily, there are plenty of opportunities to use it! Word games, puzzles and brain training are widely available on apps and in thousands of variations. If you’ve wanted to learn a new language, or rediscover what was actually going on in your physics classes, here’s your chance to tick it off your to-do list and help your brain health!
Protect your brain with good fat – Harvard Health
Does thinking really hard burn more calories? – Scientific American
How does exercise benefit cognition? – Scientific American
Puzzles can help maintain brain health – Healthline
Physical activity improves cognitive function – Psychology Today
The influence of exercise on cognitive abilities - NCBI
Cardiorespiratory fitness and cognitive function in middle age: the CARDIA study - NCBI
Leisure-time physical activity from mid- to late life, body mass index, and risk of dementia - NCBI
Your brain matters
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