STUDIES HAVE confirmed that we're living longer, but the problem is that we're not living younger. Maintaining brain health starts with building resilient, agile minds that can support and allow us to maintain able, vital bodies at any stage of life.
If you’re like most people I’ve spoken with since 30 Days to Better Brain Health was published, you may not know what it means to take care of your brain. For example, many people think that we are “destined” to have the same brain function at age 50, 60, 70 and beyond as our parents and grandparents did. The truth is that while your genes play a role in your overall health, many approaches allow you to keep your brain healthy as you age.
- Dr. Carmona served as 17th Surgeon General of the United States and is president of the non-profit Canyon Ranch Institute. This article is adapted from his book 30 Days to Better Brain Health, published by Atria Books, © 2014 CR Products LLC.
Taking care of yourself can be easily worked into your day. Here are the four areas to address:
1. The Physical:
Ask yourself: Am I taking care of my body? When you create a stronger body, you will have a stronger brain. At the same time, your resilient brain will control the health of the rest of your body. This will not only allow you to retain your good health but will also enable you to keep a high cognitive function well into your later years. And don’t we all want to have as much ability as possible as we age?
Ask yourself: Am I actively engaged in learning? A brain that is not taxed by depression, stress, or additive behaviors can continue to grow and develop as it ages. Trying new things allows us to create a different kind of mental stimulation and can help break the cycle of stress that accompanies repetition. Remember, it’s not enough just to do the things you are good at; it’s also critical to try new things in order to cultivate mental flexibility.
3. The Emotional:
Ask yourself: Am I working toward balance? You don’t need to give up your job and your life in order to devote your attention to your brain. Taking care of yourself can be easily worked into your day. The goal is to be on the path toward better brain health, but not to insist on perfection. There will be plenty of days when you aren’t able to eat perfectly or have the perfect workout. But every minute of every day counts toward moving your health forward – because doing something positive for your brain and your health is always more than doing nothing.
4. The Spiritual:
Ask yourself: Am I connected to something outside myself? Your path does not have to include an organized religion. Incorporating spirituality into your everyday life can reduce stress and allow you to develop a more creative brain, because if you can accept the power of spirit in your life, that acceptance may open the door to lots of other possibilities and choices in every aspect of your life.
We all hope for and have come to expect to live long lives. Just 100 years ago, the average person could expect to live between 49 and 51 years. Today, if you are in good health, it’s reasonable to assume that you will live well into your 80s and even beyond.
However, our ability to increase longevity has not fully addressed many of the problems associated with an aging brain. Today, it’s estimated that half of the people who reach 85 years of age will have some form of dementia or cognitive dysfunction.
That fact is exactly why improving brain health is so critical: we want not only to maintain a vibrant healthy body for years to come, but for those years to be of the highest quality. And the only way to ensure that is by maintaining – or even enhancing – a vibrant, healthy brain. By doing so, you’ll increase your capacity to live life to its fullest every day.
SUPER ANTIOXIDANT BLUEBERRY SMOOTHIE
There are many terrific foods that support brain health. Blueberries, orange juice, and cinnamon are the ingredients for a health boosting smoothie.
1 cup blueberries
1 cup orange juice
Pinch ground cinnamon
Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Nutrition information per serving:
42 g carbohydrate
2 g fat
0 mg cholesterol
2 g protein
4 mg sodium
4 g fiber