Six Keys to Keeping Your Brain Strong Your Whole Life
If you’re like me, you value your health and want to experience your life to its fullest. To do that, we must also consider the health of our brains. In today’s article I want to share with you six keys that you would be wise to implement if you want a fit brain for life. They are adequate sleep, nutrition, both aerobic and resistance exercise, social interaction and learning. Let’s talk about each and how you can optimize them.
- Adequate Sleep
Optimal sleep for us is 7-9 hours each night. This is because the average sleep cycle, inclusive of the critical final stage of REM sleep, takes about 90 minutes. For our brains to function at the peak of their potential, we need 5-6 REM cycles each night. Without adequate sleep, we lose out on the housekeeping role sleep provides for our brain. With sleep, our brains have toxins removed from them that have built up while we were awake. One example of this is a particular type of cell called microglial cells. These cells are found in our brain and spinal cord and they support our immunity by ridding us of invasive “stuff”. During sleep, microglial cells help remove a toxic protein commonly found in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients called beta-amyloid. The cells prune away unnecessary synapses and repair the brain’s neural wiring. However, the same process is activated when the body is deprived of sleep, but instead of only attacking toxins, microglial cells start attacking healthy, functioning tissues. This is one of countless examples of the actions that occur in our brains when we we’re getting adequate sleep.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “You are what you eat”? When it comes to our brains and keeping them vibrant and agile our entire lives, what you eat and also what you abstain from both contribute to the health of our brain. Things to eat are fatty fish like salmon, nuts and seeds, any kind of berries, whole grains and all colors of vegetables, especially cruciferous ones like broccoli. Two items to avoid as much as humanly possible are sugar and partially hydrogenated oils. Both of these have been linked to the forming of various diseases impacting both the brain and the rest of us as well.
- Aerobic Exercise
Aerobic means “with oxygen” and it is this live sustaining element that makes the pursuit of aerobic exercise so vital for the health of our brain. We can literally slow down the aging process by getting out for a walk or some other heart pumping pursuit because aerobic exercise preserves our brain’s gray matter, the stuff that facilitates experiences like muscle control, memory and decision making.
- Resistance Exercise
Much like its complimentary partner aerobic exercise, resistance exercise is also a way to support a youthful brain for a lifetime because it too can have a positive effect on brain matter. White matter, the part of the brain that resides beneath the gray matter, consists of nerve fibers that are extensions of nerve cells originating in the gray matter. If you imagine your gray matter as a computer, the white matter represents the cables through which the computer is kept on and functioning. As we age, it is common for our brain’s white matter to develop lesions, or holes. This act causes us to have reductions in memory as our brain’s source of connectivity is weakened. Resistance exercise that challenges all major muscles of the body a minimum of two sessions each week has been demonstrated to slow the development of lesions in our white matter.
- Social Interaction
As a whole, humans are not meant to live in isolation. A rich social network provides sources of support, reduces stress, combats depression and enhances intellectual stimulation. Studies have shown that those with the most social interaction within their community experience the slowest rate of memory decline. Happy marriages or long-term relationships and having a purpose in life have shown significant protective effects against age-related cognitive impairment. Not all interactions have to be with other people either. An interaction with pets has also been demonstrated to slow memory decline as we age.
- Lifelong Learning
The phrase “use it or lose it” describes perfectly why the pursuit of learning is so necessary for us if we want to keep our brains healthy and vibrant for a lifetime. When you learn something, your brain remembers it. To remember, the brain creates new neuronal synapses that essentially act as “hard-drive storage” to use our computer analogy from before. As the number of synapses increases, the flexibility and computational capacity increases correspondingly. Such learning keeps our brains youthful and malleable for a lifetime.
Despite old science that spoke of our brains becoming like unbendable plastic with age, new science clearly demonstrates otherwise! Our brains, given the right stimulus and environment can remain malleable until we don’t need them anymore. Implement these 6 keys to give your brain the best chance to stay vibrant your entire life!
Introducing Our New Weekly Show – A Fit Bit With a Bostonian & a Brit
Last month I came up with the fun idea of pairing our resident Bostonian, Marge Furash, with our resident Brit, Marny Wellman, to do a once weekly show of around 10 minutes tops on some kind of fitness related topic that we can all engage with. Click on the link to hear our first episode titled “It’s About Moving Forward Despite The Setbacks.”
Client Spotlight – Patti Lane
In Her Own Words
My husband, Fred and I met Chris Litten about 24 years ago at Metro Gym, where he was training clients.
Four years ago, my husband was having difficulty with ambulation, due to a neurological disease. I knew Chris was very good with people that had disabilities, so I brought my husband in for an evaluation and training sessions. I am a retired RN and was aware that my husband was not going to get better, but felt that these sessions could help him be as good as he could be, given the circumstances.
Fred enjoyed coming to Body Basics and it gave him great pleasure in his final months to work with the trainers at Body Basics. Everyone that worked with him was very professional and compassionate.
After my husband passed, I realized that I had to get my health and body back in shape and returned to my “family” at Body Basics. I have been a client there for the past 2 years. I now am back to working out as I used to, and have lost about 25 lbs.
Chris and the trainers at Body Basics treat each client as an individual. They know our weaknesses and are able to modify the exercises to meet our needs.
Even though I have met my goals, I intend to continue to attend the group classes so I can maintain my ability to function as well as I am able.
Shout outs are about us voicing victories we witness you all having at BodyBasics. This month’s are extra special because all of these shout outs were personally penned by your trainers. Enjoy!
- From the X-man – Shout out to Ross Henderson for not only always killing his virtual sessions but also staying active on his own by cycling and swimming. He’s super dedicated to his health and it’s truly inspiring!
- From Kristian – Shout out to Shayne Spude for taking initiative to start working out on her own exclusive of our sessions. She has been taking notes on her own and told me she is now working out two times per week on her own in addition to her two sessions with me!
- From Amanda – Shout out to Trish Harris! Trish has made it a priority to stay active through retirement and continues to meet and beat that goal in every session. Her dedication has been demonstrated through here ability to play tennis, horse back ride and show up to our sessions excited and eager to “level up” in her program.
- From Vadim – Shout out to Jayne Schneuer! Jayne has made great improvement in her balance in just a short period of time and always gives 100% in her sessions! Keep up the awesome work Jayne!
- From Chris – Shout out to Chuck Warren for being so consistent! Chuck continues to show up and give his best effort multiple times each week. I also appreciate how he challenges me to think outside of my own tool box for creative ways to simulate different exercises. Most recently it was creating the experience of a lying leg press with a physio ball. Keep on keeping on Chuck!
Recipe – Breakfast Salad with Fried Eggs and Sweet Potato
This tasty Breakfast Salad is a great way to jump-start your day with a tasty, veggie-packed breakfast!
- 1 large sweet potato
- 2-3 tsp oil or butter
- 1/2 tsp chilli powder
- 2 cups kale
- 2-4 Free Range eggs
- salt and pepper to taste
Homemade Pico De Gallo
- 1/2 cup diced tomato
- 2-4 TBSP diced red onion
- 2-4 TBSP finely diced jalapeño pepper
- 1 TBSP fresh chopped cilantro plus extra to taste
- a squirt of lime juice (if you have it!)
- a pinch of salt to season
- Plus choose all your favorite extras from the list below!
Toppings and Optional Extras:
- Everything bagel seasoning
- Chopped green onion or chives
- Crumbled feta or cotija cheese
- Avocado Toast on Sweet Potato (paleo) or bread (vegetarian)
- Peel and dice your sweet potato into 1/2-inch cubes.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add your oil or butter to the pan. Once hot, sauté sweet potato cubes until golden and tender, stirring every few minutes for even browning, approx. 15 minutes depending on size. Lastly season with chili powder and salt and pepper, to taste.
- While the sweet potatoes cook you’ll be able to whip up the rest of your breakfast!
- Chop your kale into bite sized pieces, then massage with a drizzle of olive oil and a teeny pinch of sea salt. If using spinach/arugula in place of the kale, simply dress with a little oil. Set aside.
- For the pico de gallo, simply combine the ingredients above. You may also use your favorite salsa in its place!
- Lastly cook eggs via your favorite method. I went with fried eggs but hard boiled, soft boiled, and scrambled are all tasty options!
- Toss it all together on a plate and dive in with your choice of topping and extras! I added a side of avocado toast with cilantro and sprinkled a little everything bagel seasoning, green onion, salt and pepper on my eggs. Perfecto!
Recipe Notes: Cook time will vary if hard/soft boiled eggs are desired and depending on how many eggs you’d like fry up.
Paleo/Whole30/Gluten-Free: skip optional toppings sides that don’t apply and you’re good to go!
Nutrition Facts below are estimated using an online recipe nutrition calculator. Adjust as needed based on toppings and extras chosen and enjoy!NUTRITION FACTS
AMOUNT PER SERVINGCALORIES 211 CALORIES FROM FAT 90% DAILY VALUE*FAT 10G15%SATURATED FAT 2G13%CHOLESTEROL 164MG55%SODIUM 139MG6%POTASSIUM 759MG22%CARBOHYDRATES 24G8%FIBER 3G13%SUGAR 5G6%PROTEIN 10G20%VITAMIN A 16533IU331%VITAMIN C 106MG128%CALCIUM 163MG16%IRON 3MG17%
Recipe Credit from Peas and Crayons, www.peasandcrayons.com
Chris, Kris, Kristian, Amanda, Dustin, Xavier, and Vadim