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OPINION | Success strategy: Better brain health

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HAGÅTÑA— Brain health is the most important part of an effective health care regimen, but the vast majority of people know little or nothing about it. Today, it’s my hope we change that.

Most of us don’t think about health until something goes wrong. We have become reactive, not proactive.

Our approach is wrong

Elise Caccappolo, PhD, an associate professor of neuropsychology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, is quoted on WedMd.com: “Many people don’t start thinking about their brain health until they notice some cognitive changes and memory loss in their 60s or 70s.”

This is usually after they’ve left the workplace and entered their retirement years.

Dr. Caccappolo and countless others who study brain health are clear: concern for the health of our brain has to start much earlier in order to maximize effectiveness. Here are six things we can do right now.

  1. Start with the heart.

High blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, and diabetes all increase the risk for developing neurodegenerative diseases by impeding blood flow to the brain. That can cause temporary or even permanent brain damage.

  1. Get quality sleep and lots of it.

Sleep is the number one thing we can do to reset the brain, allow it to heal, and to restore mental health. Start by committing to the same bedtime each night, turning off all digital devices 30 minutes before you head for the pillow.

It’s recommended that we get seven to nine hours of sleep each night.

Research shows that during sleep, the brain clears out toxins called beta amyloids that can lead to Alzheimer’s and dementia. The more sleep we get, the better.

Worried about tomorrow? Write down on paper any specific concerns for the next day. That will remind you, and signals the brain that it doesn’t have to deal with those issues while you sleep.

Another idea is to pray or meditate before you climb into bed.

  1. Eat well.

In Guam we have the standard “local” diet which many people have never strayed from. Medical professionals have long confirmed this has led to a huge number of people with chronic conditions such as those previously mentioned, cancer, and others.

You can add negative impact for brain health as well.

Brain experts recommend a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, leafy green and cruciferous vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts, olive oil and avocados; and low in saturated fat.

CUMC suggests eliminating coffee by 2 p.m. However, if you want some additional caffeine, some say a good dark chocolate can help improve memory and cognitive function.

In recent years other diets have emerged in Guam, usually in younger generations, which are favorable for brain health — keto, paleo, Mediterranean diet, and a basic plant-based regimen.

  1. Move your body regularly.

Studies now show that physically active adults score higher on tests of memory and problem-solving.

Do what you enjoy most and choose your intensity. Getting outside exercise with moderate sun exposure can add vitamin D, and can be as simple as walking for 30 minutes several times a week.

Try to add resistance training to the mix. If attending a fitness center isn’t possible, do bodyweight exercises at home. YouTube offers numerous examples.

  1. Connect with people.

Get off of social media and talk with people. Blood circulates to different parts of our brain when we’re communicating with others. Follow appropriate health and safety guidelines, and spend some time with folks in a non-virtual environment.

  1. Do new things.

For the last 25 years I’ve been continually pitching the concept of building new skills throughout our lifetime. Without realizing it, I was prescribing a bonus for the brain.

Adding and practicing a new skill increases the white matter in your brain that helps improve performance on a number of tasks. Additionally, learning new skills stimulates neurons in the brain, which forms more neural pathways and allows electrical impulses to travel faster across them.

The combination of these two things helps you learn better, and provides an overall performance boost. The great news is that you can have this now, which will benefit your career from this point forward. There is nothing more important than the health of our brain. Following these guidelines is — you know what’s coming — a no-brainer.

Join many others from both business and government at John Maxwell’s 2020 Live2Lead event, Thursday, Nov. 12, and give your team a much-needed boost! See the special bonus offers at https://live2leadguam.com

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