Monday, January 11, 2010

"Revving Up Your Brain Performance In the New Year -- Tips to Get Your Brain & Body In Tip Top Shape"

What's your resolution for 2010? Quit smoking? Get more exercise? Eat healthier? Reduce spending? The list goes on and on. If you're like most, you begin the New Year with the best intentions to turn over a new leaf. As time passes, the drive and the ability to stay committed waxes and wanes.

"Failures don't plan to fail; they fail to plan" says author and motivational speaker Harvey MacKay. Help yourself succeed this year by planning to focus on specific areas of your health. If a long-term plan is too overwhelming, try dividing your goals into a weekly or daily plan. Creating a lifestyle wellness plan will not only help your body feel great, but will also provide the mental acuity to make good decisions that will positively affect all areas of your life.

Here are some suggestions to keep your brain and body healthy this year:

Sleep -- While arguably the least taxing, it is often one of the most difficult goals to achieve. Adults should aim for 7-9 hours per night. Insufficient sleep is associated with chronic conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and depression. Make it a priority to establish a good sleep schedule. You’ll find you are sharper mentally and physically when you get adequate quantity of sleep.

Vices -- Plan to quit smoking and excessive drinking. Take it one day at a time.

Diet -- Be committed to a balanced diet; avoid processed foods and high saturated fat foods such as red meat. Opt for chicken, tofu, or even better, fish. A regular diet of Omega 3 rich fish such as salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel or sardines helps raise good high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) which reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease such as abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia), poor circulation to the heart (angina) and heart attack. Essential fatty acids such as Omega 3 can improve brain cell composition as well as the function of chemicals that transmit messages between brain cells and the nervous system. Improper balance or deficiencies in these chemicals, called neurotransmitters, can result in depression, ADHD, anxiety, insomnia, panic attacks, compulsive eating disorders and other compulsive behaviors.

Supplements: Learn the ABC’s of EPA and DHA. These Omega 3 fatty acids in supplement form are particularly beneficial to those who find it difficult to incorporate fish into their diet. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are vital nutrients found naturally in fish and can easily be ingested via gel caps or in liquid form.

As noted previously, these Omega 3 fatty acids have beneficial effects on high blood pressure, heart disease, and chronic inflammation such as rheumatoid arthritis. A 2006 Harvard study revealed that 250 mg. of EPA and DHA reduce the risk of dying of heart attack by 36%. ( University of Pittsburgh researchers studying rheumatoid arthritis found that 59% of arthritis sufferers stopped taking steroids for pain relief when given 1.2 grams of fish oil daily. (

In terms of brain health, DHA in particular has been found to improve communication between brain cells, helping to improve mood and mental clarity, reduce the risk of stroke, and may possibly stave off Alzheimer’s, and dementia. Research by UCLA neuroscientists has shown that DHA increases the production of LR11, a protein that destroys the protein that forms the "plaques" associated with Alzheimer’s, a disease which is predicted to affect 11 to 15 million people within the next 40 years. (

Physical Exercise – While walking, aerobics, and yoga have obvious benefits to weight management, regular exercise also contributes to brain fitness. Levels of dopamine are increased in the brain when we exercise, which may help combat Parkinson’s disease and chronic compulsive disorders. Exercise also increases endorphins, the body’s natural anxiety busters and mood enhancers, as well as beta activity in the brain which is shown to increase focus and awareness, and reduce brain fog.

Mental Exercise – Research has shown that challenging the brain helps stimulate brain cell connections.  Reading, knitting, crossword puzzles, computer activities, or other cognitive activities may delay or even prevent memory loss.  This year, stimulate your brain by learning a musical instrument, a foreign language or delve into something you always wanted to learn... like astronomy!

Hydration – Reduced fluid levels, even as little as 1-2%, compromise nerve transmission in the brain, impairing cognitive performance and mood. Short-term memory, attention deficits, mental cloudiness, dizziness, headaches and chronic fatigue are signs of dehydration. Avoid caffeinated drinks. Make an effort to drink 8 large glasses of filtered water daily to flush out toxins and keep your brain and body running like a well-oiled machine.

The human brain can change throughout the course of a lifetime, an amazing ability called neuroplasticity. By activating our brains through new experiences, and fueling our bodies with good nutrition we can create and strengthen neural connections that improve memory and overall cognitive functioning. Thanks to neuroplasticity, it’s never too late to make a positive affect on our brain health.

In coming posts we’ll give you helpful hints on keeping you on track, like recipes for a brain healthy diet, exercise tips, supplement information, and ways to stay mentally sharp. We welcome your feedback and questions. Please use our comment form at the bottom of this post to share your thoughts.

Happy New Year!

1 comment:

  1. I would add that mental exercises designed to stretch and strengthen working memory have been shown to promote the growth of new brain cells -- what better resolution for the new year than to give yourself a better brain!


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