I’m going to get straight to the point here, here’s a list of top five reasons brain health is such an important topic to discuss. I am leaving out diet, smoking and alcohol use to avoid making this post too long. I will write another post talking about those points.
- Stress and anxiety from a global pandemic: For the first time in 100 years, humanity has faced such widespread panic and anxiety. While moderate levels of stress are associated with a resilient brain, this kind of prolonged pressure causes cortisol levels in our brains and bodies to skyrocket. This “fight or flight” hormone is evolutionarily responsible for protecting us from threats but prolonged high levels of this hormone in our brains can cause reduced memory, damage to vital areas in the brain, poor social
skills, low verbal skills, aggression and impulsiveness.
- Sleep deprivation: This is the OTHER pandemic no one talks about. Approximately 40% of adults in the US sleep less than 6 hours per night. Sleep deprivation has a plethora of effects on your brain – inability to think clearly, lack of focus, excessive hunger, lack of attention, drowsiness, depression and falls (in older adults). Here’s some food for thought, though: top CEOs, like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos sleeps 8 hours/day; Apple CEO Tim Cook turns in before 9 pm daily. That is no co-incidence. These individuals realize the relationship of sleep and good work. Jeff Bezos says that if he sleeps less than 8 hours, he could produce more work, but the work he produces is not quality work that he would produce on a well-rested day.
- Prolonged technology use: We (millennials and later) are the first ever generation to have this much exposure to blue light from all the screens we surround ourselves with. Blue light exposure at night not only disrupts sleep but can also lead to eye strain, depression, fatigue, blurred vision, headaches, neck pain, and nausea. Too much of technology use by kids can also lead to: reduced attention, reduced engagement, lack of focus, decreased alertness, stress, reduced visual fields, reduced hand-eye coordination (our kids get to use a touch screen before they play with dirt or playdoh), obesity and nearsightedness.
- Longevity: As a population, we are living longer, a LOT longer. Life expectancy in the 1950s was 68 years, but in 2021, despite COVID, we’re pushing an average life expectancy of 80 years globally. After the age of 22-25, we start losing brain mass (mostly due to neuronal loss) and that means – we are all slowly losing brain function. By the age of 75, most adults lose up to 30% of brain mass. A plethora of diseases is attributed to this loss in neurons, change in brain chemistry and brain function as we age – dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, other degenerative neurological diseases. Understanding normal brain functioning and brain health gives us the tools to keep our brains well as we age (for a lot longer) and stay away from disease.
- Lack of Physical Exercise: the WHO recommends that an average adult get 150 min of moderate to intense exercise per week. Only 23.2% of US adults met the recommendations for weekly physical activity in 2018. This is a scary statistic. Despite having all the info, we are ignoring the one key supporter of brain, body and overall health. Physical exercise has such a wide range of neuroprotective effects, I had to write a whole other article to explain (Look for “Your Brain On Exercise”)!
So, I posed a problem (or a few of them), I won’t leave you hanging without a solution! What can we do to maintain and even improve brain health in the long run?
- Exercise! Dance! Yoga (my personal favorite)! At least 150 min/week.
- MEDITATE. Every. Single. Day.
- Pursue intellectually stimulating activities (preferably outside of the phone screen).
- Stay socially active.
- Manage stress, don’t let cortisol win!
- Eat healthy foods (healthy fats are a MUST).
- Sleep for 6.5-7.5 hours each night (every person has their sweet spot, and it keeps changing with age).
- Oh, and also, recent research has indicated coffee to be the brain’s friend (neuroprotective), but in moderate amounts only <2 eight oz cups/day.
Save this info, follow, like, share my page @yourmovementspecialist for more brain/body altering, life-improving tips and info. Make an appointment with my office at email@example.com or (609)-726-6003 for 1:1 treatment from a doctor of physical therapy for any ailment ranging from dizziness, Parkinson’s disease to pain from working too long at your computer!
CDC – Data and Statistics. Short Sleep Duration Among US adults. https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/data_statistics.html (Physiological Reports: “Melatonin suppression and sleepiness in children exposed to blue-enriched white LED lighting at night.” n.d.) X Ren & J F Chen, 2020. Caffeine and Parkinson’s disease: multiple benefits and emerging pathologies, Frontiers in Neuroscience, published online. T Filippini et al, 2020. Dietary habits and risk of early-onset dementia in an Italian case-control study, Nutrients, Volume 12 (11) T Wang et al, 2020. Association between coffee consumption and functional disability in the U.S older adults, British Journal of Nutrition, published online. C T Hong et al, 2020. The effect of caffeine on the risk and progression of Parkinson’s disease: a meta-analysis, Nutrients, Volume 12. Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep | National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (nih.gov)
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