|TEN TIPS FOR MAINTAINING
A HEALTHY BRAIN FROM 1 TO 100
Tip 1: Don't smoke.
a major risk factor for cancer, heart disease and stroke. These leading
causes of death represent an ongoing concern for all Americans. Nonsmokers
might consider taking an empathetic approach to smokers who are trying
to quit, and parents might use a "tough love" approach with
their children to make sure they don't even start.
with your physician is critical to your health. Remember, though, that
as a consumer of health services your doctor is your employee, so establish
a good working relationship based on the understanding that you are the
boss of your body. We must develop a proactive attitude toward maintaining
our health and take responsibility to change those aspects of our lifestyles
that are minimizing our longevity potential. Our physicians can help guide
Tip 3: Exercise
Exercise and physical
activity continue to emerge as primary components of a healthy lifestyle
at any age. Aerobic exercise, weight training and recreation are critical
not just to our cardiovascular health but to our brain health, as well.
Every time our heart beats, 25 percent of its output goes to our brains-quite
a large market share! Clearly, maintaining efficient blood flow to our
brains through regular exercise promotes health. If you don't exercise
regularly, start by walking around the block tonight and build from there.
Tip 4: Reduce the
overall calories you consume daily.
We Americans tend
not to underconsume anything-including food. Yet the leading factor for
longevity in animals is caloric restriction. This finding has yet to be
demonstrated in humans. However, provided you get your daily nutritional
needs from the USDA'S food pyramid, you should pay close attention to
how much you eat. Follow the advice two physicians gave me: N ever go
to bed stuffed, and eat only 80 percent of what you intend to consume
at every meal.
Tip 5: Socialize
and have fun.
We Americans specialize
in stress, with little understanding of how to have fun. We need more
time to socialize, celebrate and laugh! Some of us have walls around us
that keep other people away. As humans, though, we need to be engaged
and to be social. Kofi Annan, the secretary general of the United Nations,
once stated that every time "we lose an elder from our village, we
lose a library." If we begin to think of everyone as a library, it
becomes clear that we can learn from others.
Tip 6: Develop
to emerge that prayer is a health-promoting behavior and that attendance
at formalized places of worship may have more significance to our health
than we understand. Meditation, yoga, relaxation procedures and prayer
have neurophysiological bases. They help to alter our existing homeostasis
for the better. Praying or meditating daily can help us combat the stresses
of life and focus on the challenges ahead.
Tip 7: Engage in
mentally stimulating activities.
refers to the ways our brains respond to stimuli in the environment. Novel
and complex stimuli are health-promoting for the brain. New learning translates
to neurophysiological growth and to mental stimulation in the same way
that aerobics translates to cardiovascular health. We can benefit from
being challenged, from learning information and skills that we do not
yet understand, and from engaging in pursuits that are initially hard
Tip 8: Maintain
your role and sense of purpose.
Retirement as it is
presently envisioned in this country is not good for the human brain,
which benefits from environments rich in novel and complex stimuli. Retirement
by definition reinforces disengagement and passivity. Our nation might
consider prioritizing social engagement across the lifespan-from a brain-health
perspective. Although it is important to allow elders to choose more passive
lifestyles, many may benefit from an understanding of the importance of
actively participating in society and finding personally relevant roles
and senses of purpose.
Tip 9: Seek financial
Research clearly demonstrates
that having some money late in life correlates with better health. Therefore,
a practical tip for maintaining lifelong health is to hire a financial
planner and begin a savings plan that will provide some money late in
life. Financial planners do not consider themselves to be health promoters,
but they are. We are never too young or too old to begin saving, and the
less money we make the faster we need to get started!
Tip 10: Engage
family and friends.
Developing and maintaining a social network of relationships is important from a health perspective. Our friends and family help us stay active and involved in the fabric of society. They can provide us with emotional support and can nurture trust. Our roles in life, from child to parent to grandparent, exist within the family; they provide much health and human enrichment across the lifespan. And intimacy, broadly defined, is itself a health-promoting behavior at any age.
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David Nussbaum, Ph.D.