This week we bring you a guest post all about healthy lifestyles and brain health from Jennifer McGregor, a pre-med student who helped create PublicHealthLibrary.org.
Most of us are well aware that the lifestyle choices we make impact our physical health and well-being. What’s not often discussed is the impact of those same lifestyle choices on brain health. The truth is that many of the daily choices you make can have a substantial impact on mental clarity, concentration, and even your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Here’s a look at how lifestyle choices affect brain health.
A Healthy Body is Key to a Healthy Brain
Your brain relies on the same nutrients that the rest of your body uses for fuel and function. What’s more, the physical condition of your body is closely linked to brain health as physical health impacts physiological functions such as your respiratory and circulatory system, which supply your brain with blood flow and oxygen.
Exercise: The Best Way to Protect the Brain
It doesn’t take running a marathon every week to get the brain-protecting benefits of exercise. Researchers find that even brisk walking for just 15 minutes each day or 90 minutes per week is associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Challenging Your Brain with Mental Stimulation
If you enjoy challenging puzzles, reading, or other mentally stimulating activities, you’re doing your brain a huge favor that will pay off as you age. Learning something new, solving puzzles, or engaging in challenging problem-solving activities are just a few ways to stimulate your brain. Think of it as exercise for your brain: Just as physical activity strengthens your muscles and bones, mental stimulation strengthens your brain’s neurons, cells, and connections.
More Sleep, Less Stress
Stress is, well, stressful, and your brain feels the effects, too. One way to combat the effects of stress, which contributes to inflammation, is to get enough sleep each night. Sleep allows your body to rest, repair, and rejuvenate, lowering inflammation throughout the body and the brain. When you’re well-rested, you’re less likely to become easily stressed out by minor stressors, so ultimately you’re creating a healthy feedback loop that contributes to your overall well-being.
Technology’s Impacts on Brain Health
There’s been much discussion about the impacts of digital media on our attention spans, but on the flip side, some studies have shown that in older adults, brain activity increases while surfing the Internet. So what’s the deal? Is technology good or bad?
The key might be finding the right balance. There’s no arguing that technology is useful, but spending too much time in front of the screen before going to bed can make it difficult for you to fall asleep, and too much technology time in general can have negative impacts on your attention span, focus, and other mental functions. So use technology and take advantage of the mental stimulation it can provide in moderate doses, but don’t overdo it.
The Importance of Socialization
Studies have shown that maintaining social interaction and meaningful relationships are major contributors to brain health. Being social can help you stay sharp, prevent mental disease, and even improve memory and the ability to think clearly. And it doesn’t have to mean going out every single weekend or having regular parties. In fact, simply walking your dog can increase your social interaction by engaging with others on the sidewalk or chatting with a neighbor at the dog park.
Good lifestyle choices are a must for physical health and well-being. But when you’re thinking about your daily habits, remember that the choices you make every day impact your brain health, too.
Jennifer McGregor has wanted to be a doctor since she was little. Now, as a pre-med student, she’s well on her way to achieving that dream. She helped create PublicHealthLibrary.org with a friend as part of a class project. With it, she hopes to provide access to trustworthy health and medical resources. When Jennifer isn’t working on the site, you can usually find her hitting the books in the campus library or spending some downtime with her dog at the local park.
Image via Flickr by A Health Blog