The brain is the organ of learning, loving, and behaving for every member of a family, school or business. When the brains in a family or organization work right, the family or organization tends to be positive and effective. When the brain of one or more family or organization members is troubled, the family or organization experiences increased stress and strain.
Your brain is only about 3 pounds, or about 2 percent of your body’s weight. Yet, it uses 20 to 30% of the calories you consume, 20% of the oxygen you breathe and 25% of the blood flow in your body. Unbelievably, given that it is the bedrock of your personality, some think even your soul, the brain is 85% water! It is estimated that the brain has 100 billion nerve cells and more connections in it than there are stars in the universe, which is about the number of stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. There are also trillions of supportive cells in the brain called glia. Each neuron is connected to other neurons by up to 40,000 individual connections (called synapses) between cells.
A piece of brain tissue the size of a grain of sand contains 100,000 neurons and 1 billion synapses, all “talking” to one another. Information in your brain travels at about 268 miles per hour. If you don’t take care of your brain, you lose on average 85,000 brain cells a day. That is what causes aging. With appropriate forethought, however, you can reverse that trend and dramatically slow the aging process and increase your mental agility.
Knowing how to care for your brain and the brains in your family or organization is the first and most important step to success.
Given the brain’s central role in success, we offer 12 prescriptions to optimize it for a better life in all you do. Here are the first 6:
1. LOVE YOUR BRAIN
Before we truly understand our brain health, we tend to have many bad brain habits. Eating a lot of fast food, too much sugar, diet sodas, not enough sleep at night, working long hours, and not getting enough exercise, are all common bad habits that we’ve likely fallen victim to at some point.
By giving our patients visibility through brain SPECT imaging to the overall health of their brain, we’re able to validate the methods of how to keep your brain healthy as you age, for optimal performance throughout your life, and to get you to truly love your brain and want to take care of it every day.
Loving your brain is the first step toward creating a brain healthy life.
2. INCREASE THE BRAIN’S RESERVE
Have you ever wondered why certain stresses or injuries affect some people and not others? Why do some people get depressed after losing a parent while others, although sad, keep on going; why some people, after having a minor head injury, seem to be really affected, while others don’t; or why some people can roll with being fired or getting divorced and others nearly lose their minds.
After looking at tens of thousands of brain scans, we began to think about the concept of “brain reserve.” Brain reserve is the cushion of healthy brain tissue we have to deal with the unexpected stresses that come our way. The more reserve we have, the more resilient we are in times of trouble. The less reserve, the more vulnerable we are.
Here is an example:
Mary and Katie are identical twins. They share the same genes, the same parents, and the same upbringing. Yet their lives have been very different. Mary is a successful journalist, in a long term happy marriage with three great children, while Katie barely finished high school. She suffered with depression and a bad temper and went from job to job and relationship to relationship. Their lives have been nothing alike. When we scanned them, Mary had a very healthy brain, while Katie had clear evidence of a brain injury, affecting her prefrontal cortex and temporal lobes. At first, when we talked with the twins together Katie didn’t remember a head injury. Then Mary spoke up saying, “Don’t you remember the time when we were 10 years old and you fell off the top bunk bed onto your head? You got knocked out and we had to rush you to the hospital.” The injury likely caused Katie to have less brain reserve, which may be why she was always more vulnerable to stress than her sister.
When we are conceived, let’s say, we all start with the same amount of brain reserve. Many things can decrease it and many things can increase it. For example, if your mother smoked, drank alcohol or was under constant stress when she was pregnant with you, likely she decreased your brain’s reserve, even before you were born. If she exercised, ate a healthy diet, and took prenatal vitamins, likely she increased your reserve.
If you fell off a bunk bed onto your head at age of ten, were exposed to chronic stress from alcoholic parents or drank much alcohol or used drugs as a teenager you decreased your brain’s reserve. On the other hand, if you protected your head, were raised by reasonably loving, consistent parents, ate a healthy diet and avoided drugs and alcohol you increased your reserve.
The exciting news is that it is never too late to work on increasing your brain’s reserve.
Anything you do that harms how your brain decreases its reserve. Some examples:
• Chronic stress kills cells in the memory centers (hippocampus) of the brain
• Brain injuries, concussions, or other types of physical head trauma
• Too much alcohol or drug abuse
• Negative thinking disrupts healthy brain function
• Poor diet/nutrition
• Environmental toxins
• And, anything that decreases blood flow to the brain, such as a lack of sleep, untreated sleep apnea, smoking or too much caffeine, steals from your reserve
Likewise, living a brain healthy life will increase your brain’s reserve and your ability to deal with the inevitable stresses that come your way.
3. PROTECT YOUR BRAIN
You brain is soft and your skull is hard. Brain injuries can ruin your life, so wear your seat belt, drive in safe vehicles, protect your head in sports or steer clear of contact sports.
4. STOP POISONING YOUR BRAIN
Do not put toxic substances in your body. If you poison your brain, you poison your mind. Avoid alcohol, illegal drugs (including marijuana), smoking, limit your caffeine intake, and stop using cleaning products without proper ventilation.
5. PROTECT YOUR MEMORY
It is critical to take early memory problems seriously and not just dismiss them as normal aging.
One of the MOST important things you can do to keep your memory strong is exercise. Cognitive abilities are best in people who are physically active. There are also several supplements that have good supporting research for memory including fish oil, gingko biloba, sage and a Chinese moss extract called huperzine.
6. GOOD SLEEP IS ESSENTIAL TO THE HEALTH OF YOUR BRAIN
Unfortunately, 60 million Americans have trouble sleeping, which affects your mood, memory and ability to concentrate. It is estimated that sleep deprived people cause more accidents than drunk drivers. Because of sleep problems, doctors are prescribing sleep medications that can affect your moods and memory at alarming rates.
First, you need to eliminate anything that might interfere with sleep, such as caffeine or alcohol. Additionally, natural supplements such as melatonin, valerian, or 5-HTP can be helpful.
Hypnosis is also a powerful tool for many patients, that often acts as a holistic replacement for sleeping pills or medications. Hypnosis and self-hypnosis are very powerful tools to help us gain mastery over our own minds and bodies and can be helpful for sleep, as well as for anxiety and pain.
To read the next 6 prescriptions for creating a brain healthy life, follow this link.
There are many ways to optimize your brain and your mind. You CAN create a brain healthy life by learning how to love and care for your brain, and by focusing on what you love about your life a lot more than what you don’t. Take what you have learned here to develop your brain healthy life and teach it to others. By creating brain healthy families, businesses and communities ALL of us benefit.
If you, or someone you love, could benefit from an evaluation at Amen Clinics, call our Care Coordinators today at 888-288-9834 or tell us more online.
To continue to the last 6 prescriptions, click HERE.
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