The human brain is complex. Comprised of billions of neurons connected by trillions of synapses, it’s responsible for the essential components of our lives: what we see, how we learn, what we believe, how we move, and even who we love. We can all do a better job of honoring the immense significance that our brains play in our lives.
Every July 22, we celebrate World Brain Day. The World Federation of Neurology designates a specific theme for the yearly celebration. This year’s theme, “Brain Health for All,” is about the universal importance of brain health that affects us regardless of age, race, or socioeconomic standing.
There are several ways to promote good brain health. The most crucial step for common brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia is through a healthy cardiovascular system. Studies show strong linkages between poor cardiovascular health and risk for dementia. However, developing habits that encourage good cardiovascular health is simple. Research shows that aerobic exercise for just 15 minutes three times a week lowers the risk of dementia by between 30% to 40%. In addition, eating a balanced diet of fruits and vegetables and maintaining healthy blood sugar also reduce risk factors.
Fostering good brain health also involves making positive connections within the brain. Brain games like sudoku, crossword puzzles, or logic puzzles have improved cognitive functions,
including problem-solving, memory, and critical thinking. Learning a new language or expressing creativity by writing, painting, or playing a musical instrument can also create vital pathways in the brain that promote strong brain function.
On top of that, good brain health means good mental health. There is evidence that long-term stress rewires your brain, so the threshold for stress response is lower. Our reactive fight or flight response is triggered more often, which impairs our ability to think clearly and handle more complex thought processes. However, the opposite is true as well. When people can manage their emotions and stressors adequately, it contributes to better emotional regulation, less stress, and better decision-making. Having a solid support circle or group of friends to talk to, or even a therapist, is a great way to cultivate better mental-emotional health.
The brain is the command center for our whole body, and we must treat it right. We can considerably improve the quality of our lives by making a few small daily changes.