Brain health and body health go hand-in-hand

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Isn’t it something we all want, to live a happy, healthy, productive life?

Problems such as dementia, obesity, depression, and cardiovascular disease plague much of the United States in some capacity, but one answer to prevent and delay them is already in all of our heads, literally.

The key to living this happy healthy productive life is in protecting the very thing that runs it: the brain.

Brain health is a vast topic and the amount of research is staggering, but the interesting thing about this research is that what is good for the brain is also good for the body.

What is even more interesting is that the secret mystery to living a productive life is not all that secret. Simply applying the habits of exercise, healthy eating, mental stimulation and social interaction to your lifestyle can make all the difference.

The first area to improving your brain health is to get moving. Physical exercise is essential to maintaining good blood flow and developing new brain cell growth. Exercise does not need to be strenuous to receive these benefits. Thirty minutes of modest exercise is enough to improve oxygen consumption and brain function.

The second area to improve brain health is a healthy diet. The brain requires the right balance of nutrients to function optimally. This includes foods that encourage blood flow to the brain and are low in fat and cholesterol. Such items include dark-skinned fruits and vegetables, which have the highest level of naturally occurring antioxidants; cold water fish containing a large amount of omega-3 fatty-acids; and nuts, which are also high in antioxidants.

Another area of brain health is social stimulation and support. Those who engage in cultural activities and sports, and have close personal and emotional relationships, maintain more brain vitality compared to those who do not.

The fourth brain health area for improvement is mental stimulation. Mental decline is largely due to altered brain connections. Keeping the brain active can increase its vitality, build connections and create new brain cells.

We all want to keep mental decline at bay for as long as possible. People who engage in an active healthy lifestyle combing exercise, diet, mental stimulation and social support have a 15 percent slower cognitive decline.

Protecting your brain should become a routine, just like brushing your teeth or taking out the trash. It doesn’t have to be a major ordeal, but rather simple actions of living. Examples include going for a walk, working in the garden, dancing, reading, writing, working puzzles, volunteering, traveling and joining a club.

Live a life of quantity and quality and enjoy the life you live.

For more information on brain health visit www.alz.org .

Theresa Osborne is the new Wellness Center director at the Walla Walla YMCA. She has a master’s in exercise science and several certifications from the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

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