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Brain-the spoilt yet smart brat
There are no doubts as to why the brain is the smartest organ in the body. In fact, it is the only organ that can control cognition, motor skills, sensory skills, and basically every bodily function.
Because it constitutes only 2% of your body weight yet consumes 20% of your total energy and oxygen intake. No wonder, a 3-pound brain contains as much as 2 pounds of dry fat making it the fattiest organ in the body.
And it’s not just fats.
Almost 73% of the brain is water. So how come a blob made only out of fatty cells and water be such an integral part of our survival and consciousness?
The answer is simple- nutrition and oxygen.
Every single minute around 750-1000 ml of blood is carried to the brain that soaks the brain with essential nutrients and live-giving oxygen required to make those neurons fire synapses.
Most recent studies indicate that there are around 86 billion brain cells in an average human brain. With such an intricate framework of neurons working in tandem, it’s not a surprise that information in our brain travels at a lightning speed of 268 miles per hour.
Yes, that’s right.
Those grey cells of yours are faster than a Ferrari!
The brain and you
So basically what you are carrying around with yourself, safely enclosed within your skull is the world’s most powerful supercomputer.
And this is not a hyperbole.
Studies indicate that our brain’s memory capacity is one quadrillion bytes (that’s 1 followed by 15 zeroes!). And no, contrary to popular media portrayal, we don’t use just 10% of our brains.
If these are the astounding capacities our brains are blessed with how come we so easily fall prey to forgetfulness?
Why is it that the number people suffering from dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases are on a rise?
How come, in spite of being so nutritionally-endowed, does our brain gets “fatigued” and shuts down?
There are a number of reasons why this happens. Amongst all the factors that hinder the proper working of the brain, the most prominent are age, unhealthy lifestyle habits, poor food choices, and stress.
These are collectively shrinking your brain’s erstwhile heroic strength.
Reverse the trend: Boost your brain health
As greedily as it may behave when it comes to consuming nutrients, the brain is one hard-working fella. It keeps on firing electric signals to regulate every single process within our body (more than 1000 processes per second).
Throughout the day it enables you to think, learn, speak, move around, remember, plan, and make decisions. And in the night time, when you hit the sack, it is still working.
In fact, when you sleep your brain is more active than it is in the awake state.
With so many responsibilities on its shoulders, it is easy for the brain to lose some of its former glory. But this shouldn’t be a cause of worry for you as long as you are following these easy yet effective methods to boost your brain power…
The Cult of Fitness
As you must have understood by now that your brain is a mega-powerhouse supported by the collective functioning of the nerve cells. The capacity of your brain is directly proportional to the strength of these minute yet myriad interconnections.
Improved physical activity is hence, the biggest step that you can take in ensuring better neural health. There are various ways in which you can incorporate this into your daily lifestyle.
The term aerobic literally means any activity that shoots up our body’s oxygen levels. Aerobic exercises effectively enhance our body’s capacity of absorbing and transporting oxygen through the bloodstream.
Those pumped-up exercising routines activate us at the cellular level, enabling the mitochondria to produce more energy. With increased energy and oxygen supply, our brain automatically starts functioning more effectively.
The complex coordination and highly varying movements involved in dancing routines provide the brain a series of mental challenges.
Now the thing about the brain is that it loves challenges. It thrives on it. The more it is challenged, the lesser is the cognitive decline. This means that dancing strengthens your cognition in addition to being a great physical workout routine.
Ever wondered why you always return happy and de-stressed from a camping trip?
It’s because being in nature, be in the form of hiking, trekking, or swimming is extremely beneficial for the brain.
The serene ambiance and distance from pollution and stress have rejuvenating effects on the brain.
So next time you feel stress, take a hike to the countryside.
The results will speak for themselves.
Not just for “inner-peace”, but for higher gray cells volume, relief from stress and anxiety, and improved concentration – meditation is the key.
Harvard researchers have found that meditation can bring forth actual physical changes to your brain’s structure that are linked to improved cognition. While a couple of weeks of meditation can help you ace those reasoning tests, years of meditation can drastically reduce the effects of aging on the brain.
Food for thoughts?
The age old saying -you are what you eat is unmistakably accurate when it comes to nourishing your brain. Since your brain is made out extensively out of fatty cells, it is only reasonable that it stores one-fourth of your total cholesterol reserves.
But did you know that there exists a second brain in your brain too?
Yes, it lies deep within the gastrointestinal system or as you might know it the – the gut. Your gut is a haven of healthy bacteria which communicate directly with your brain via the Vagus nerve. Which means that, if your gut is receiving unhealthy and processed food, your brain receives a direct warning call.
This call can directly impact your mood and temperament.
Hence, your diet affects your brain in two distinct yet impactful ways – through nutrition supplied by the blood and your gut-ambiance. In order to ensure that these two work in cohesion for better brain health, consider the following dietary advice.
The brain is made of fats.
Ergo, a diet rich in healthy fats (HDL cholesterols) will help in building more brain cells.
The best sources of HDLs are the Omega-3 fatty acids found abundantly in salmons, nuts, and seeds. Flaxseed oil, almond, and pumpkin seeds are considered to be top brain foods.
In addition to these, hogging on green leafy vegetables (like Popeye) will get you the daily boost of essential vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, and magnesium which are critical to cerebral health.
Instead of opting for sugary drinks (which we all know are poison to your body), go for food with complex carbohydrates such as potatoes to last longer on mental energy.
And not to forget, the wonder that is dark chocolate, bursting with flavonols and polyphenols which are proven cognition-activators.
Drink more (water) to be smarter
Did you know that even 2% decrease in your body’s minimum water content requirement can affect your memory?
Or that, 90 minutes of sweating can momentarily shrink your gray cells?
Prolonged periods of dehydration can increase your chances of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Motor Neuron diseases.
It is because our brain is 70% water.
It floats in a bath of cerebrospinal fluid which acts as a shock absorber.
When your body is dehydrated, its anti-inflammatory abilities start declining.
Also, the body is not able to get rid of toxic substances.
By drinking enough water, you ensure that your body is detoxing regularly and these harmful substances (chemicals, pesticides, heavy metal) are not reaching your brain. Also, it reduces the risk of brain inflammation.
Get rid of substance abuse for good
Alcohol-tobacco-nicotine; these have a way of ruining every single vital organ of your body including the brain. Addiction to any of these heavily impairs the functioning of the brain – be it neurologically or psychologically.
The most direct effect is the worsening of nerve cell communication.
They manifest drastic behavioral changes and corrode our brain stem which is critical for healthy sustenance. These addictive substances impart a heavy blow to the brain’s reward center creating an unhealthy level of dependency.
Hence, it would be best to get rid of them if you are addicted or are even a light user of these substances. Substance abuse deteriorates the brain structure and is the cause of drastic undesirable personality changes.
Teaching new tricks to the old dog
During any conversation involving the brain, the word “hard-wired” gets thrown around the room a lot.
This term promotes the idea that as we progress age-wise, things in our brain start taking a more permanent and static form. But this can’t be further from the truth.
Our brain exhibits a remarkably unique characteristic called as “neuroplasticity” that debunks this myth. Within this is included our brain’s dynamic ability to forge new connections.
The more we force our brains to traverse through uncharted territories, the more it accommodates to suit the needs.
This means that you have the superpower of continuously evolving and improving your gray cells, just by including the following mental exercises in your daily routine.
Learn a new language or skill (or both!)
Linguistic skills represent one of the most complex cognitive functions.
By egaging in the act of learning a new language, we force our brains to form new neural pathways and connections.
Studies indicate that this activity can increase the size of our hippocampus (the memory-center).
And we all have neuroplasticity to thank.
When you expose your brains to rigorous and demanding challenges, it will respond by creating a denser neural network.
This very phenomenon was the reason behind why London taxi drivers were found to have larger cerebral volume than the bus drivers of the same city.
(Hint: the cabbies have to learn 25,000 interlinked streets and landmarks to get a license whereas bus drivers follow a much simpler map for navigation).
Challenge the status quo
Bring down the long-standing routine, change the way you do things usually. Wear your watch on the opposite wrist. Brush with the non-dominant hand.
Take different routes to reach work.
Read the newspaper upside down.
Just like crosswords and puzzles, which have been long associated with making your brain sharper, these quirky things will also boost your brain power.
Falling in a rut slows down your brain, however, complex the activity might be. If you incorporate these tiny changes in your daily schedule, you will set a series of hurdles for your brain to jump through. These activities will keep your brain active and stimulated. And naturally much sharper in the longer run.
Human beings evolved as social animals, and thus close-group dynamics are important to the way our brains respond.
Positive social interventions and influences reinforce new and healthy interconnections between various regions of our brains.
The result is not just improved cognition but decrease in the stress levels.
Meeting new people and sharing moments with them leads to a lesser risk of neurodegenerative diseases.
People who tend to isolate more are at more risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. This seems only natural since social events and meet-ups tend to make us feel happier and satisfied.
So now you have a proven medical reason to hang out with your buddies more.
These proven tips will go a long way in ensuring that your brain retains its vitality, regardless of your age or burdening stress-levels.
The best part about these techniques is that they are easy as well as exciting.
Camping, guitar-lessons, and salsa-classes; your most-cherished hobbies have now become doctor-prescribed antidotes against brain degeneration.
So what are you waiting for?
Follow these simple steps and boost your brain power!
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