Brain Awareness Week: Are you taking care of your brain?

Brain Awareness Week (BAW) is the global campaign to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research through various engagement and outreach events, such as neuroscience lab tours. BAW unites the efforts of partner organizations worldwide in a celebration of the brain from March 11th – 17th, 2019. We would like to take this opportunity to outline the importance of brain health and the simple things you can do every day to take better care of your brain.

Did you know that the brain uses more energy than any other human organ? While it only represents 2% of total body weight, it accounts for 20% of the body’s energy use. This is why efficient energy supply is critical for the brain, so that your memory, mobility, and senses can function normally. Lifestyle has a profound impact on this energy supply and therefore on the health of your brain. What you eat and drink, how much you exercise, the quality of your sleep, the way you socialize and how you manage stress are all critical components of a healthy brain.

What’s good for your heart is good for your brain! The brain holds about 25% of the body’s cholesterol and it uses that cholesterol to help neurons form connections that underlie memory and learning.  A heart healthy diet supports good cardiovascular health and helps combat heart disease and diabetes, which are contributing factors to dementia. A heart healthy diet involves eating mostly plant-based foods and focusing on fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains, reducing your salt intake and opting for fish or poultry instead of red meat. Healthy fats, like olive oil, avocados, and nuts, also help the brain function more efficiently. Your brain is made of 80% water and staying hydrated helps improve concentration, balance your mood, prevent headaches, and maintain memory function. Adults should aim for at least two liters of water a day, but individual requirements may vary.

Exercise is not only good for your physique, but it also improves blood flow, which stimulates chemical changes in the brain that enhance learning. Regular physical exercise can reduce your risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease by up to 50%. The Harvard Medical School recommends 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week to improve your memory.

Sleep is not only a time for rest, but it is also a time for regeneration and improving your mood and immune system function. Sleep keeps the brain healthy by clearing out toxins that naturally build up throughout the day. Generally, adults should sleep between seven to nine hours a night, but individual requirements may vary.

The way you socialize and how you stay connected can protect you from memory loss. This is an easy one! Engage in stimulating conversations, stay connected with friends and loved ones and train your brain on a regular basis. Mental exercises promote new brain cell growth.  Mental exercises, or brain aerobics, are any new tasks that challenge your brain, engage your attention and involve more than one of your senses. Brain exercises we like include crosswords, Sudoku, word jumbles, attempting to write with your non-dominant hand, trying new hobbies like painting, and exploring brain training websites. Get started by doing mental exercises a few times a week.

Finally, practicing meditation and managing stress may help fend off age-related decline in brain health. Try a meditation class, online guided meditations, deep breathing exercises or anything that helps you relax and calm your mind. This will not only be beneficial for your brain, but your overall health and quality of life.

For more information about Brain Awareness Week and different events taking place around the world, visit the Brain Awareness Week Calendar of Events.

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