(Note: Guest columnist Dr. Annie Turner is the owner of Turner Chiropractic in Evans and an advertiser with Augusta Good News. Any opinions expressed in this column belong to its author)
(Featured photo by Tima Miroshnichenko/Pexels)
Most people don’t think about the aging process until they are in the midst of it. With the stresses of life being what they are today, our brains are being stressed as well. Your brain needs three basic things to thrive: energy, love and stimulation.
Energy for your brain comes down to good oxygenation and actual nutrition. When we breathe, we should be exhaling twice as long as we inhale. That means if you inhale for two seconds, you should exhale for four seconds. Breathing at a rate where inhalation is greater than exhalation time can put your body into acidosis and one of the side effects is less oxygen in your blood, which means less nourishment for your brain. Make a conscious effort to work on your breathing so exhalation is twice as long.
Healthier diets lead to healthier brains
Your actual diet plays a role in nutrition of the brain. Any food sensitivities can throw you into fight or flight, and over time can even cause you to have autoimmune issues. There are four major areas where most people have issues — gluten, dairy, so, and over-consumption of sugar. You can pay to have them tested, but the easiest way is to eliminate them for a month and then introduce one at a time back into your diet and see how you feel. If it causes problems, you will know you have a sensitivity to it.
We are social beings. We were created to be social and interact with others. If you are one of those people that think, “Ugh, people”, I get it. However, socializing keeps our brain healthy. You don’t have feel loved by every human you come in contact with, but you should find a few people with whom you feel mutual respect and love. This may mean getting out of your comfort zone and even at times being hurt by others, but the rewards far outweigh the risk.
The diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, dementia and other memory problems has greatly increased in the population over the years. One thing you can do to improve memory is to play a game called the N Back Test. You will need a shuffled deck of cards. Flip one card at a time, and your job is to remember the numbers on the cards starting with two cards back. For example, I flip the first card, and it is a 10 which I will now need to keep in my mind as I flip the second card. As I flip the second card (we’ll say it’s a four), I will need to remember it as well and now I say out loud the first card I flipped, which was a 10. Then, as I flip my third card, I will say the number from the second card (four) and so on. The object is to remember the numbers in order that were two cards back. Once you get good at two back, try three back. Once you get good with three back try two back with suit and continue on that way. If you can master these, you will have improved your memory. You will also want to keep practicing so you are continuously improving your memory.
There are many exercises that stimulate your brain, but the best bang for the buck, in my opinion, are balance exercises. Balance feeds several areas of your brain, and there is no way to cheat. Once you have mastered it, you have improved those areas of your brain. You should be able to stand with your feet together and hands at your side with eyes open for a long period of time. If not, that is where you begin and shoot for 30 seconds. Next, try the same position with eyes closed. You should be able to do that for at least 30 seconds without having to catch yourself. If not, work on that. Next, you should be able to stand on one leg with arms at your side for close to 30 seconds (depending on age) with eyes open. Next, try eyes closed. You should be able to do that close to 20 seconds (depending on age). You will also want to do the opposite leg eyes open and then eyes closed. You may find that one side is worse than the other. Keep practicing balance and your time should get longer on each task. You are actively improving your brain when you do this.
The last tip I will give is both fun and annoying. Just one day a week, try doing some of your daily tasks with your opposite hand. If you are a righty, try brushing your teeth or brushing your hair with your left hand. This affects right versus left brain.
This is not an all-inclusive list and there are far more details that I could add, but it is a start to improving your brain health. Try them out and enjoy the wonderful benefits!
Dr. Annie Turner is a graduate of the University of Georgia and Sherman College of Chiropractic. She is certified in physiotherapy and received an applied clinical neuroscience certificate from Life University.