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Be smart and practice brain health
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Forsyth County News

We are all inundated with things we should be doing for our health.

Almost everybody knows what we need to do to be heart healthy — eat less red meat and a lot of vegetables and fruits, exercise more and cut down on saturated fats.

There also is a lot of health-buzz about digestive health, or how eating an alkaline diet is good for the gut.

I have never really liked the word “gut,” but health experts use it all the time, so I guess it’s correct.

But what about that all-important organ, the brain?

I find it fascinating that scientists now say there are many simple (and not so simple) things we can all do to improve our brain health.

I love this and hope readers will join me in doing some brain work.

Brain experts (what a title) say that physical exercise is critical to brain health. Walking counts, so lace up those sneakers, grab a friend or spouse, and head outside or to the gym.

For optimal results, experts say to add weight training to an exercise routine. For those who are nervous about adding weights, don’t be.

Just buy some light dumbbells and do some repetitions while watching television. Even 15 minutes can make a difference.

I recently met the nicest gentleman at the gym. I struck up a conversation while we were both on the dreaded elliptical machines.

Besides being interesting, he was also in amazing shape. I was shocked when he told me he was turning 80.

He said he has always been physically active and tries to do some sort of exercise every day. What an inspiration.

Perhaps not surprisingly, brain experts also say upping the intake of foods rich in anti-oxidants is also critical to brain health.

When deciding what to eat, think bright colors. Red peppers, green kale, purple eggplant, radishes and beets all rank up there.

Of course, overall nutrition is equally important. Strive for a diet that is heavy on fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains and beans.

I found it shocking to learn that our brains begin slowing down at the ripe old age of 30. That’s just not fair. The bright spot is that brain experts say “exercising” the brain can help speed things up.

What are some brain workouts? Doing jigsaw puzzles, playing ping pong and learning a new language, musical instrument or the tango are all considered great ways to stimulate the brain.

One scientist said we should try to have as many hobbies as possible. I love that. There are a lot of great classes offered here in our community. Why not take an art class or learn to make pottery?

Being active and learning new things also keeps us socially engaged, which is also good for our brains. (I wonder if this knowledge would help me convince Paul that we need to take dance lessons.)

Reducing stress is also important. Stress wreaks havoc on our bodies, and the brain is no exception. Try doing yoga or learning to meditate if stress is a problem. Of course, that first tip of staying active with exercise will also help reduce and manage stress.

Sleep. Such a simple word and yet so many of us don’t get enough. Sleep is when our bodies do a lot of work to repair the damage we do to them on a daily basis.

Aim for at least seven hours of sleep a night. But if you’re like me, eight hours may be required to feel optimal.

Laugh. Probably my favorite healthy brain tip. Laughing feels good and stimulates the “feel good” sector of the brain.

Watch a funny movie, listen to a favorite comedian, buy a joke book, or just hang out with funny friends.

Even though all of these things are supposed to help keep our brains healthy, they all seem like great goals to strive for period.

Exercising, eating well, finding new hobbies, reducing stress, getting enough sleep and laughing. Sounds like things we all need to do to improve ourselves in every way.

Here’s to healthy brains.

 

Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at contact@adlenrobinson.com.