Brain Health Benefits from Exercise and Proper Diet

Researchers say that one new case of dementia is detected every 4 seconds globally.  They estimate that by the year 2050, more than 115,000,000 people will have dementia worldwide.  (Harvard health-blog).

               We all know that moderate exercise is good for improving general health and this applies to your brain as well.  Some brain–boosting benefits of cardiovascular exercise include: Increased blood  

flow to bathe the brain in oxygen and glucose; increased hormones mixing with BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor) to improve cell growth, help to regulate mood and improve learning; and signal the release of serotonin (mood booster), dopamine (affects learning and attention), and norepinephrine (influences attention, perception, motivation and arousal). (Womenshealthmag.com) Studies showed these effects may even cause permanent structural changes to the brain.  One study indicated that exercising 1 hour per day for 3 times per week for 6 months actually increased the size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with memory and learning.  Exercise can also stimulate the growth of new connections between a wide array of cortical areas of the brain. (Brainhq.com)

               The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends 2-1/2 hours of moderate cardio exercise per week and two strengthening workouts.  Moderate exercise would be described as anything that elevates the heart rate to approximately 110–140 beats per minutes or 11–14 on the 20 point rate of perceived exertion scale (RPE).  Examples would include walking greater than 3 mph, bicycling up to 10 mph, participating in water aerobics, dancing or doubles tennis. More intense workouts have demonstrated a bigger spike in BDNF, dopamine and epinephrine.  Examples of more vigorous exercise  ( > 140 bpm)would include racewalking, jogging, or running; hiking uphill, lap swimming, singles tennis, aerobic dancing or bicycling above 10 mph. It is important to increase your intensity level gradually.  Activities which require increased levels of coordination, rhythm and strategy also engage several areas of the brain thus increasing the benefits.

               Along with exercise it is important to maintain a diet that also stimulates brain health.  Blueberries help protect the brain from oxidative stress, which may reduce the effects of dementia.  Wild Salmon, sardines and herring are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for brain function and also provide some anti-inflammatory substances.  Seeds provide vitamin E, which helps to

decrease cognitive decline.  Avocados are high in monounsaturated fat, which contributes to healthy blood flow, thus reducing hypertension, which is a risk factor for a decline in cognitive ability.  Whole grains reduce the risk for heart disease, improving blood flow to the organ systems.  Beans stabilize blood glucose for a steady stream of energy.  Pomegranate juice provides antioxidant benefits to protect against free-radicals.  Freshly brewed tea provides potent antioxidants as well as caffeine, which if used judiciously can boost brain power by stimulating the production of endorphins. (WEB MD) 

               It is best to develop good exercise and eating habits at a young age to gain and maintain benefits of good brain health throughout the lifetime. 

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