Dr. Gary Small, a member of the Herbalife Nutrition Advisory Board recently delivered a talk about the Healthy Aging and the importance of brain fitness in healthy adults.
The online event which was part of the Virtual Wellness Tour Series hosted by Herbalife Nutrition Philippines stressed on effective strategies to enhance memory and preserve brain function as part of healthy aging, as well as the incorporation of healthy nutrition habits in order to achieve optimal brain fitness or health.
Dr. Small who is also the Chair of Psychiatry at Hackensack University Medical Center and the Behavioral Health Physician in Chief for Hackensack Meridian Health, began his talk by enumerating the many reasons why people today is said to be living in a most stressful time.
Threats To Our Mind Health
- Financial Uncertainty
- Social Turbulence
- Everyday Life Challenges
- Natural Threats
- Unhealthy and Sedentary Lifestyles
- Global Pandemic
Dr. Small said that genetics account for only part of what determines how long and how well we live, only about 30% of how you age is determined by your genes. The other 70% is actually in our own hands – physical conditioning, cognitive training, stress management, and nutrition.
Science says that a steady decline in brain function in humans begins at about the age of 30. Prolonged immune response, declining cellular function, and other factors contributes to brain aging.
Studies also say that people who live longer share similar characteristics. For example in areas in the world where people live longer like Sardinia (Italy), Loma Linda (USA), Nicoya Peninsula (Costa Rica) and Okinawa (Japan), the majority of the older people there:
- are physically active
- share strong social ties
- do not smoke
- consume a healthy well-balanced diet of fruits, vegetables and legumes
Physical and Mental Activity
Physical activities and aerobic exercise like brisk walking has shown to have the capacity to grow the hippocampus or the elongated ridges on the floor of each lateral ventricle of the brain, which is thought to be the center of emotion, memory, and the autonomic nervous system.
Dr. Small also likened the brain to the muscle, “which performs better when it gets regular exercise.”
“Mental stimulation has been shown to activate neural circuits and is associated with lower Alzheimer’s risk Educational achievements, bilingualism, or doing puzzles have all been shown to lower the risk of dementia. Memory training can also improve memory recall and help you maintain higher cognitive performance for five or more years,” Dr. Small said.
Mental exercise or mental stimulation like reading, playing word games, or learning a new skill are just some of the ways you can keep your brain healthy as you age. This is what we know as brain fitness!
The Role of Balanced Nutrition in Brain Health
Apart from engaging in mentally stimulating activities, being active and healthy also helps with brain health. According to him, pairing exercise with a balanced diet supports both brain health and cardiovascular health.
“A healthy brain diet consists of eating foods rich in Omega-3 fats like fish and nuts; antioxidant-dense fruits and vegetables like blueberries and artichokes; and avoiding processed food,” Dr. Small said.
Nutrients affecting healthy brain aging:
He, however, reminded that nutrition and exercise alone don’t prevent the onset of disease or reverse the effects of aging.
More Ways to Keep Your Brain Healthy
Talking to your doctor about managing your wellness and the medicines you take is also important to in keeping your brain healthy. Likewise, creating a healthy environment by limiting your exposure to smoke, smog, mold, and other toxins as well as avoiding information overload, TV addiction, and clutter is also good for your brain health.
Having a positive outlook, getting adequate sleep, and nurturing a strong community that you can rely on can also help in keeping your brain healthy as you age.
Taking a 10-minute walk with an empathic friend or chatting can actually lower stress and help make brain cells strong.
Here’s a quick brain health checklist: