Use It or Lose It: The Secrets to Brain Health

01.26.24 |

As science reveals the secrets of the three-pound CPU on top of your shoulders, we’re discovering the brain’s amazing resilience to changing conditions–what neuroscientists call “plasticity.” Your brain will provide optimal levels of cognition and memory as long as you maintain it under the following conditions:

  • Keep enough blood flowing to provide the oxygen it needs to flourish.
  • Feed it enough of the right nutrients.
  • Use it.

The Habits of Health Transformational System encompasses all of these needs by design, but you may not realize just how impactful your daily choices are on the health of your brain.

Habits of Healthy Motion for Brain Health

Statistics actually support the saying “What’s good for the heart is good for the head.” Adults who exercise at least three times a week have a 30-40% lower risk of developing dementia later in life than those who don’t exercise. So why is exercise important for the brain?

There are three big factors:

  • It provides a healthy brain environment.
  • It stimulates nerve growth factor (NGF).
  • It reduces stress.

The science behind these factors is extensive, but the short version is that exercise increases blood flow, which delivers oxygen and nutrients to your brain more efficiently while also flushing out waste and other necrotic debris. That same exercise stimulates NGF, which helps repair damaged neurons while also increasing production of neurotransmitters. Lastly, you are probably aware of how damaging stress can be to your health, and exercise has been proven to reduce stress, a major boon to the health of your brain.

Habits of Healthy Fuelings for Brain Health

You may have guessed that since blood flow is so important for brain health, that any fueling choices you make that promote healthy circulation will also be good for your brain. That’s correct. The same kinds of food that have been found to lower your risk for conditions like heart disease, diabetes, or high cholesterol, are also good fuelings for your brain. Likewise, the kinds of foods that have been found to contribute to inflammation are also likely to have a negative impact on the health of your brain.

If you’re using OPTAVIA meals, you’re already on the right track, but check out the shopping charts in Dr. A’s Habits of Health to learn more about what foods you should and shouldn’t be eating.

Habits of a Healthy Mind Workouts

Our brains need a workout as much as our bodies do! But it doesn’t need to be complicated. In fact, creating brain fitness can be as simple as reading, writing, doing crossword puzzles, playing an instrument, or having deep conversations with friends.

Anytime you perform an activity that’s different from your usual activity–such as learning a new hobby or working through a challenging puzzle–you create new neural pathways. You can find several opportunities throughout your day to build new neural pathways with simple changes like using your offhand to do chores or listening to audiobooks while you commute.

The good news is that whatever our age, our brains can continue to grow and renew. You just built a few new neural pathways by reading this, so keep the streak going!