Why a brain-healthy lifestyle is so important

The lat­est sci­en­tif­ic research shows that spe­cif­ic lifestyles and actions can, no mat­ter our age, improve the health and lev­el of func­tion­ing of our brains. Such improve­ment can hap­pen thanks to neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty that is, when the rate of cre­ation and sur­vival of new neu­rons in cer­tain parts of the brain is increased, or when the rate of cre­ation and sur­vival of synaps­es (the con­nec­tions between neu­rons) speeds up, or when a neu­ro­chem­i­cal envi­ron­ment is nur­tured in our brains to sup­port infor­ma­tion processing.

The nice thing about dis­cov­er­ing that our lifestyle can affect brain func­tions is that it puts our brain health large­ly under our own con­trol. How­ev­er there is no mag­ic for­mu­la. Sci­en­tists are only begin­ning to under­stand how what we do can inter­act with our genet­ic make­up. As to now, it is not pos­si­ble to define which actions are the best for which indi­vid­u­als. It is like­ly that there will nev­er be one gen­er­al solu­tion that solves all the chal­lenges inher­ent in main­tain­ing one’s brain health. Dr. Art Kramer, whose inter­view can be found at the end of this Chap­ter, points out that a mul­ti­tude of approach­es will be necessary.

So what fac­tors have an influ­ence on brain health?

Cur­rent rec­om­men­da­tions sug­gest that a brain-healthy life style should include at least bal­anced nutri­tion, stress man­age­ment, phys­i­cal exer­cise, and brain exer­cise. Oth­er fac­tors may also have an influ­ence. Dr. Eliz­a­beth Zelin­s­ki, whose inter­view can be found at the end of the present Chap­ter, points out that it is also impor­tant to main­tain emo­tion­al con­nec­tions. Not only with our­selves, to have self-con­fi­dence and self-esteem, but also with our fam­i­ly our friends. Sleep and over­all health con­di­tions are oth­er fac­tors that also matter.

Here we focus on the four main pil­lars of brain health:

  • Bal­anced nutrition
  • Stress man­age­ment
  • Phys­i­cal exercise
  • Men­tal stimulation

This new online resource is based on the con­tent from the book The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness, by Alvaro Fer­nan­dez and Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg.

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