The brain is AMAZING- are you helping yours stay in tip top shape?
Our brain function is directly related to this thing called neuroplasticity.
It means what it sounds like- the stretchiness of our neurons! How cool?!
(ok, yeah, it's a lot more complicated. But for all intents and purposes...)
The brain contains many billions of neurons and many more trillions of neuroglia. There are also a few (12 pairs, to be exact) nerves in there, too. All that really means is that while the brain is surrounded by muscle, bone, fluid, and other structures- it is actually entirely receptors that interact with each other all the time.
I know I'm boring you with my nerdiness (I'm feeling very Dr. Derek Shepherd right now 😉) , but what I'm trying to get to is this;
the brain is not a muscle- but it acts very similarly.
We know that our muscles will slow in function if we don't work them. The brain can be very similar. That's why trying something new is often pretty difficult- you're working those neurons that haven't gotten a workout in a while!
It's super technical to get into and I'm no neurologist, so I'll keep it at base level today.
What I do want you to know is that there are things you can do to keep your brain healthy for years and years to come!
Eating for a Healthy Brain
This starts wayyyy before we are even born. We may be past that stage today, but any pregnant mommas out there- take note!
Brain growth is heavily linked to adequate amounts of both folate and vitamin B12. Even as adults, a vitamin B12 deficiency can cause lasting neurological damage. Eating a diet rich in these nutrients provides health benefit that can last an entire lifetime.
Vitamin D has also been shown to have a massive effect on the neuroplasticity of cells, affecting cognitive function greatly.
Things to note:
-Vitamin B12 is formed from a microorganism in soil. It is not synthesized by any plant or animal. Some food sources have higher amounts than others, but there is almost no instance where a B12 supplement is a bad idea. Especially for moms-to-be and people with a family risk of dementia!
-This one is for my expecting moms! There is a very common genetic mutation known as MTHFR Deficiency. When you have this, your body can't methylate (break down and absorb) folate/folic acid properly. Genetic testing can be expensive, but MTHFR has been linked to miscarriage, neural tube defects, and adverse reactions to some medications and vaccines in children born with the mutation. A Hungarian study as well as multiple other independent studies suggest that anyone over 19 years of age, but especially women of childbearing age, should consume about 1.0mg folate/folic acid per day- with about 3/4 of that amount coming from a supplement in the form of folic acid (https://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/330776, https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/folate#disease-treatment).
-Always check with your doctor before changing your diet or starting any new drugs or supplements
This table from Oregon State University shows some of the most folate dense food sources (in micrograms; 179 micrograms = .179mg):
Thinking about starting a vitamin regimen? Our nutritional scientist, Bailey, recommends this one- it has a complete list of necessary vitamins and minerals (including those mentioned above for brain health!) at stable and safe amounts for most adults*.
Moving for a Healthy Brain
While the brain isn't a muscle, movement still plays a HUGE role in how it functions.
We're all well aware the exercise releases our "happy hormones," dopamine and serotonin. This helps improve mood, which studies show can also help improve our memory.
Something you may not have known is that moderate exercise has actually been measured against brain activity and cognitive function- and the results are promising.
Many studies show that cognitive function can be improved through exercise, and that you can reach peak performance both physically and in the capacity to optimize your cognition (https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jpa2/28/4/28_4_155/_pdf).
It's important to note that most of these studies have been done only within a few minutes of exercise, but let's go back to that idea of neuroplasticity...
It's the same thing as muscle memory, but for the brain.
The more you repeat a movement, the more your muscles are able to recognize and complete the movement.
The more often you engage a neural synapse (connection), the more capable your brain is to recognize and complete that connection.
So based on the research, we can assume that if our cognitive function is increased during and shortly after moderate exercise, then our cognitive function is increased long-term because of the foundations of neuroplasticity and how our brain "exercises" to form and strengthen new connections and capabilities.
Interested in more on how movement impacts the brain? Tony recommends reading these articles- please reach out if you have questions!
Learning for a Healthy Brain
And if that hypothesis is true, then that means that we can not only learn new things through practice, but we can actually improve our capability of learning new things.
It's incredibly important to lay the foundation for a healthy brain through our diet and exercise, but it's also important to practice the act of learning- especially when that capability is at it's highest potential.
So next time you're exercising, try listening to a podcast or audiobook!
Choose something that you're interested in but don't know a lot about. If you open the pathways to their maximum potential and then flood them with new information, that information is much more likely to stick.
If you're interested in health facts and want to try out a new podcast, then the team has a REALLY COOL new suggestion for you...😉
Get on our VIP list for updates about the podcast and how to listen! Click the link above to check it out.
We know we aren't for everyone, so here are a few other really interesting and informational podcasts that we like to listen to:
Whether you're into science, self development, art, or history- there's a podcast out there for you! Try a few and watch in awe as your "random facts" climb in number and your cognitive function improves without you even knowing it.
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