Author: Linda Sinden Date Posted:11 February 2020
Staying on your game from early in life by stockpiling cognitive reserves is what is recommended for brain health throughout life. However, if you haven’t thought about your cognitive reserves until later in life, that’s okay, as it is never too late to start and achieve cognitive strength and gains.
Harvard neurologist Dr Alvaro Pascual-Leonie says:
“As we learn more about this there is a great reason for being optimistic and joy. With a longer life span comes an increased risk for cognitive decline is what we have been told and come to believe. It turns out that this decline is not an obligatory decline for aging, it is a consequence of our brain not coping well with illnesses that develop with age. But we can do something about it and we can increase our own healthspan rather than simply our life span. It is a reason for optimism and a reason for action for all of us.”
Dr Pacual-Leone mirrors the way Ayurveda considers cognitive health and decline. This week we look more generally at how to support your brain health no matter what stage of life you are at with targeted mental activities, specific herbs, along with some helpful food and lifestyle choices.
You will have heard the term use it or lose it... This is particularly true with our brain as it is in a constant state of expansion or growth along with regular pruning. As we engage in activities and in particular new activities that challenge or extend us, we strengthen pathways and create new pathways in our brain, effectively expanding our cognitive resources.
When past learnings are no longer needed and thus not accessed after sometime the brain sees them as redundant and prunes the area. Should we have an injury our amazing brain can also transfer a given function to another location. This process is called neuroplasticity and neuroplasticity gives hope to those of us who are experiencing occasional or moderate levels of memory loss which can also be associated with confusion and sometimes a feeling of being disoriented.
Both modern experts and Ayurveda now agree… you health including your brain health is not set in stone. You have your part to play and can make a big difference in the outcome.
Brain Gym Tips for Great Cognitive Health
- Satisfying mental activity helps to stimulate and challenge the brain helping develop cognitive fitness and cognitive reserves. The key here is that the activities need to be new or challenging by learning new things not usually done. What is important is that it is enjoyable and challenges our brain to learn and be confronted with new challenges.
Just choose an activity that takes you out of your usual comfort zone and taps different abilities of your brain, much like cross training. If you can do the activity with friends or family members even better, as it also brings in social connections that increases cognitive benefits. Consider taking up a new hobby that you’ve always wanted to try! For some it could be making jewelry, sculpting, pottery, painting, learning about the share market, learning a new language, attending a dance class… what else?
Why not learn to meditate.. Transcendental Meditation is particularly effective at promoting whole brain functioning and research shows it increases IQ too.
- Boost your resources with Amla Berry Plus> which helps to promote both physical and mental energy along with Youthful Mind>, Brahmi> and Stress Relief> which contains both Shatavari and Ashwagandha; all of which are traditionally used to strengthen and promote cognitive performance and resilience.
- Be physically active with a brisk walk or other activity for 30 minutes daily has also been shown to increase the blood flow to the brain and to enhance helpful brain chemistry.
- Eat your dinner by 6 - 7pm so that you have a minimum of 3 hours after dinner before going to bed. Ayurvedically we suggest that this meal be smaller than your lunch meal as lunch is the time when the body is more able to digest a full meal. In the evening a smaller portion will set you up for a good sleep and allow the meal to be more fully digested before lying down to sleep.
- Be well rested is a catch phrase we hear often now. The importance of sleep between the hours of 10pm to 6am for cognitive and body health is now very much forefront in modern medicine. Ayurveda highlights this recommendation for everyone while emphasising it to be particularly important in the Vata stage of life from 50 years onwards.
- Avoiding refined sugar and refined flour, packaged and processed foods is also important for brain health. Research has made a link between impaired blood glucose tolerance and the development of dementia and Alzheimers. When the brain is given the chance to burn fat its preferred source of energy due to a gap of 12-14 hours between the evening meal and breakfast (eg evening meal by 6pm and breakfast at 8am) cognitive strength and resources often return.
Ayurveda takes this one step further and recommends that you favour wholesome foods suited to your body type or current imbalance. To find out what food to favour complete the free Test Your Health Quiz to see what dosha to balance. The report it provides provides information about what foods to favour.
- Be happy and enjoy times with your friends and loved ones. Being socially connected and enjoying love and friendship are very important aspects of a life well lived and contribute to one’s healthspan and lifespan too.
Wishing you the bliss of balance.
Linda Sinden and the Get Balance Team