Are you looking after your brain?

MBB speaker, Helena Popovic blogs for e-Bytes.

Neuroscientists have discovered more about the brain during the 21st century than in all previous centuries combined! This means our knowledge of the brain has exploded, and the information is life-changing for each and every one of us. It’s my passion to share this information with everyone I can reach.

We now know that our brains are constantly changing in response to everything we do, every hour of the day.  One fifth of all the nutrients in the food we eat go to the brain to supply it with essential raw materials that affect our mood, our thought processes and our decision-making skills.  Thats why diet is an important factor in brain health.

Every time we engage in any sort of physical exercise, we produce a multitude of chemicals that improve brain functioning, stimulate the growth of new brain cells, increase connections between existing brain cells and elevate our mood.  So lace up your runners and get out there.

Whenever we solve a problem, overcome an obstacle or bounce back from depression, we raise our IQ and increase our brain cell count.  Every time we attempt something new whether we master it or not we sharpen our brains and keep dementia at bay.

A good nights sleep helps to preserve memory, consolidates previous learning, enhances our capacity to make sound decisions, builds up our resilience to stress and strengthens our immune system.

Meaningful social connections are essential in keeping the brain healthy loneliness doubles our risk of developing cognitive problems and dementia.  Optimism enhances our creativity, problem solving skills and overall health and wellbeing.  

On the other hand, smoking, binge drinking, chronic stress, sleep deprivation, junk food, loneliness and depression all significantly increase the risk of dementia, particularly Alzheimers disease (the commonest type of dementia in developed countries like Australia and the USA).  Stress causes the body to release high levels of cortisol, which actually destroy brain cells and prevent the brain from laying down new memories and accessing old ones.  So if you want to recall something, the best thing you can do is to relax!   

About 1700 new cases of dementia are diagnosed in Australia every week, adding to the 320 000 people already suffering from the disease, and the one million carers looking after them.  Most cases of dementia are not hereditary and until now we didnt realise that our daily habits and lifestyle choices had such a profound impact on the functioning of the brain.  We are not passive victims of our genes, and mental decline as we age is not inevitable.  We can actually build up what is known as “cognitive reserve” to help keep our brains in excellent working order for the duration of our lives.  There isnt any one thing that will guarantee that a person remains free of dementia.  But each month, I hope to share a Brain Booster that might just tip the scales in your favour so that your brain remains sharp, healthy and happy all the days of your life.

Helena_speakerphoto_1About the author:
Helen Popovic will be speaking at Mind Body Business in Canberra October 2015. To view her topic and profile,Helen Popovic