What is the worst thing that can happen to you? My father used to think it was dying. I think being dependent upon someone to change your diaper for the last ten years of your life is worse. Opinions abound.
Most people agree that they want to have a sound mind in their later years. Ask anyone who has experienced friends and family suffering from dementia, in any of around a dozen kinds, with Alzheimer’s disease as probably the best known.
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/what-are-the-13-factors-that-shape-brain-health. The main take-away today is that you must not wait until Social Security age to begin a program to achieve and maintain excellent brain function and mental health. Ironically, great brain health starts with cardiovascular health. When your heart begins to fail, your brain is not far behind.
Blood Pressure and Brain Health
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/270644#what-is-blood-pressure. When I flew in the Navy, it was mandatory to get a flight physical every year. I had 31 flight physicals and passed everyone. Weight and blood pressure (BP) were two areas that were nominally on the edge of passing in my later years.
I discovered when my weight was below the maximum allowed; my BP remained within normal limits. Exercise kept my weight in check, and I had no worries about being at the upper level of healthy BP. \
Your brain needs oxygen and the nutrients circulating in the blood. High BP is caused by many factors, such as age, race, family history, weight levels, activity levels, tobacco, excess sodium, and more. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/symptoms-causes/syc-20373410.
Cholesterol and Brain Health
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/9152. Medical experts tell us that cholesterol can be a cardiovascular problem. Yet, every cell in our body needs cholesterol to function correctly. How can cholesterol be a problem when our bodies need it and manufacture it? Cholesterol drugs shut down the body’s ability to create cholesterol.
It is not the amount of cholesterol that is a problem, but the amount of oxidized cholesterol creates plaque in the blood vessels and arteries. Oxidized cholesterol happens when your diet includes excess polyunsaturated fatty acids (vegetable oils), fried food, or smoke cigarettes. https://www.verywellhealth.com/what-is-oxidized-ldl-698079.
Blood Sugar and Brain Health
https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/high-blood-sugar-linked-to-mental-decline. Continual high levels of blood sugar increase the risk of dementia, even if you do not have diabetes. The August 2013 publication of The New England Journal of Medicine elaborates on blood sugar and brain health. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1215740.
Levels of Exercise and Mental Health
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1470658/. Exercise provides more blood flow to the brain. Increased blood flow reduces the risk of depression, anxiety, ADHD, and more. Increased exercise levels promote neural growth, reduce inflammation, release endorphins, and distract you from negative thought cycles.
Stress must be managed daily. Many of us do not feel stress, yet it is harbored safely tucked away in our bodies. Exercise relaxes muscles to relieve tensions, perceived or not. Many times, increased activity eliminates symptoms of ADHD by boosting levels of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels.
Patients with PTSD have found relief using exercise to get unstuck from their fears and move away from the immobilization stress from whatever trauma occurred. When the brain wanders, we focus on those things directly in front of us – the fear, panic, or other emotion from a traumatic event.
However, focusing on muscle movement that engages both arms and legs, such as running, swimming, dancing, hiking, rock climbing, skiing, etc., the brain focuses on coordination, and the bond attached to the previous shock begins to disappear.
Diet and Brain Health
https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/d/diet-and-mental-health. The food we eat provides fuel to our body and brain. Poor quality fuel in an automobile will cause sputtering, missing, backfires, and occasional stalls. Similarly, the choices of food can create mental issues.
Our bodies need antioxidants to protect themselves from oxidative stress. Interchange the word, body, with the term, brain, and everything applies. What is good for the body is good for the brain.
Multiple studies show a high correlation between impaired brain function after a lifestyle of a high diet of refined sugars. There is close coordination between the gut and the brain. Our digestive system, our gut, is sometimes called our second brain.
The gastrointestinal tract produces nearly 100% of the hormone serotonin that regulates sleep, appetite, mood, and more. Bacteria in the gut can limit inflammation or allow it to grow out of control. Both situations connect directly via neural pathways to the brain. Eating a ‘clean’ diet for at least three weeks can balance the gut biome and improve body and brain health. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/gut-microbiome-and-health.
Body Weight and Brain Health
https://patient.info/news-and-features/how-does-losing-a-lot-of-weight-affect-your-mental-health. Many obese and overweight people struggle with body image and sometimes depression about it. Society has a stigma about obesity. They believe the person has control over their weight, and they choose to eat to excess, not exercise and have other bad habits. However, that is not true.
The risk of psychiatric disorders can indeed increase with higher levels of internalizing weight stigma – self-induced. Emotions associated with weight issues can lead to maladaptive copings, such as binge eating, excessive risk-taking, procrastination, and more. Food preoccupation becomes a norm.
More than a few people ask me how to fast for three, four, five days, or more when I do my monthly extended fasts. I do a 72-hour-fast monthly. Many times, it ends up over 100 hours.
Currently, as of this writing, I have gone over 110 hours without eating food. I cannot do that easily at a moment’s notice. However, two or three days of mindset adjustment makes the transition easy as pie. I have zero cravings for food. Whatever hunger pang I might experience disappears in a heartbeat with a swallow of water or unsweetened iced tea, the only things I have on my extended fasts.
Poor self-esteem is shared with people packing extra pounds. Many people without weight problems suffer from poor self-esteem; it is not weight dependent. Fixing an esteem issue is not easy, but it is doable. Eliminate self-criticism and adopt self-compassion is a good start. Reaffirming your true value must be at the top of the list.
Weight problems are not all exercise and diet controllable. As Yogi Berra said, Baseball is 90% physical, and the other half is mental. Our mental state affects our physical presence.
I am an advocate for balanced nutrition and caloric restriction. Start with a salad plate and never go back for seconds. Habits do not change in less than 30 days. New behaviors also take at least 30 days to become firmly implanted into our psyches.
Smoking and Brain Health
https://www.apa.org/monitor/2013/06/smoking. Many people became addicted to tobacco and cannot break free. Addictions are hard to break. Smoking provides stress relief for many. However, smoking can cause serious health issues. It is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. https://www.healthline.com/health/smoking/smoking-effects-on-brain.
Addiction issues must be addressed by competent authorities. Sometimes, knowing the effect of something can strengthen their resolve to fix a problem. Dr. Morris Massey, https://www.enterprisemedia.com/product/00127/what-you-are-is-where-you-were-when—the-original talks about Significant Emotional Events in our lives that drive the future of our lives, both good and bad. A brother-in-law who dies at 40 years of age from lung cancer might be enough reason to change a habit for someone emotionally close to him.
Nicotine disrupts neurotransmissions in the brain. Acetylcholine and other neurotransmitters resemble the physical appearance of nicotine. Even though they are different molecules, the brain is hijacked into doing things it should not do.
Nicotine activates dopamine signals creating the pleasure sensation that many receive immediately from smoking, and a craving a short time later. When some neuro signals increase, the brain compensates by reducing specific receptors, such as acetylcholine receptors. When that happens, a situation develops that creates a nicotine tolerance which causes the brain to want more nicotine.
Remember the Lays Potato Chip commercial that said, “Bet you can’t eat just one?”
Nicotine will change your brain. Withdrawal causes anxiety, irritability, and cravings for more nicotine. As nicotine addiction increases, cognitive decline develops. Forgetfulness is common. The risk of dementia increases. Brain volume shrinks. Age will cause brain shrinkage but smoking and growing older increase the rate of shrinkage.
Other Controllable Issues and Brain Health
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/iq-boot-camp/201407/10-ways-improve-your-brain-health. Depression, social isolation, abuse of alcohol, sleep disorders, and more can create brain health issues. Most, if not all, are controllable. Addiction to smoking and obesity are two that are hard to overcome, but it is possible. Fix your controllable issues first. Prioritize!
The journey of a thousand steps begins with that first step. Things important to me for brain and overall health are nutrition, balanced nutrition. That means you eat the right foods that supply your body with the thirty-plus nutrients it needs daily. Complement that change by eating those foods that provide the least calories.
I read the Wahls Protocol by Dr. Terry Wahls years ago. It is a dietary protocol that supplies ten times the nutrients needed daily. You will be eating meat and fish, green leafy vegetables, brightly colored fruits, and fats from animals and plants in a nutshell. https://elmmedicine.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Wahls-Protocol-Complete-Food-List.pdf.
Live Longer & Enjoy Life! – Red O’Laughlin – RedOLaughlin.com