Coast Lifestyle

A SMARTER WORKOUT PLAN: EXERCISE FOR BRAIN HEALTH

POP QUIZ: Who was the first Prime Minister of Canada? How many U.S. states have “City” in the name of their capital? Who was the first drummer for the Beatles?

And one more: is physical exercise good for mental health?

There are plenty of great reasons to be physically active, but here’s one you might not think about often. According to a recent University of British Columbia study, researchers concluded regular aerobic exercise (exercise that gets your heart and sweat glands pumping) can maintain the size of the hippocampus, the verbal memory and learning part of your brain. These scientists identified a direct correlation between exercise and keeping your wits.

Now, this might not help you remember John A. Macdonald was Canada’s first prime minister, Jefferson, Oklahoma, Carson, and Salt Lake have city in the state capital, or Pete Best was replaced by Ringo Starr, but it does reveal aerobic exercise is not just good for your physical health. It’s also essential for your brain health.

A Smarter Hippocampus

Tucked under your cerebral cortex is a funny-looking gland in your brain called the hippocampus. FUN FACT: Your short- and long-term memory and spatial memory gland is shaped like a seahorse. And it’s all in the name—from the Greek words hippos (horse) and kampos (sea-monster). The hippocampus plays an important role in the formation of new memories, both episodic and autobiographical, and declarative memories.

This is a fancy way of saying the hippocampus can assist you in remembering what you had for breakfast, how to navigate from home to work, and memorizing facts and figures.

Your brain has two hippocampi, bilateral, each located in the medial temporal lobe. Research has shown that damage to the hippocampus can result in the inability to form and retain memories.  Conversely, when you supply your hippocampus with oxygenated blood from exercise, it can keep your brain healthy. In addition, exercise helps improve mood and sleep which goes a long way to reduce stress and anxiety.

That’s why it’s important to get aerobic exercise throughout the week.

The Muscle Between Your Ears

So, what’s the best exercise for brain health?

Neurologist Dr. Scott McGinnis from Harvard Medical School suggests something as simple as a brisk walk for one hour, twice a week, can be enough. But here’s the deal: it can be anything. Swimming, bicycling, a dance class, or even household activities can get your blood moving and work up a sweat. The Mayo Clinic suggests a simple way to determine your maximum heart rate is to subtract your age from 220. For example, if you’re 40 years old, subtract 40 from 220 to get a maximum heart rate of 180.

So, find an activity you enjoy and get moving. Sign up for a Zumba class or try yoga. Give the rock-climbing gym a shot or make sure your dog gets a daily walk. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you’re raising your heart rate—helping not just your brain, but your entire body.

Riddle Me This

Physical activity is great for brain health, but don’t forget to keep your mind sharp with mental activities. Muscles can atrophy over time if you don’t use them, and your brain is no different. Keep your brain performing at high levels, maximizing your cognitive powers with these stimulating tips.

  • Eat well. Good nutrients are important. Make sure your meals include omega-3 fatty acids, leafy greens, oils, eggs, and walnuts to help support your brain.
  • Do math in your head. Lose the paper and pencil and make simple calculations in your head. The next time you get change at the store, see if you can figure out the amount before the cashier.
  • Take a cooking class. Cooking uses a number of senses: smell, touch, sight, and taste. Stimulate your brain by cooking something new.
  • Explore your taste buds. Speaking of food, the next time you get a meal, try to figure out each of the ingredients in the recipe. Small tests like this can help expand your mind’s appreciation for flavor and texture.
  • Play an instrument. Learning to play a musical instrument takes time and discipline. It also keeps your mind engaged as you make beautiful music.
  • Learn a foreign language. Picking up a new language later in life is hard, but not impossible. It requires listening and practicing new words, and it’s a great way to stimulate your mind.
  • Read a book. Never underestimate the importance of reading. Books and magazines not only inform and entertain you, but they keep your mind sharp and focused.

Just like regular exercise can help with heart health, mental exercises can keep you living an engaged lifestyle. Let us know in the comment section what you do to improve your brain health. Link videos or programs you use to keep your mind active.

Healthy Cove

FOOD FOR THOUGHT—NUTRIENTS FOR BRAIN HEALTH

Your brain is powerful. You can even use it to think about how the brain itself works. Crazy, right? But this power doesn’t make your brain immune to factors that impact the rest of your body. Lifestyle and environment can affect your brain health. Luckily, there are nutrients for brain health shown to support cognitive function.

Lipids

For a long time, dietary fats (lipids) have been connected to brain health. Originally, lipids’ effect on the cardiovascular system was thought to facilitate that connection. But more recent research shows dietary fats have more direct actions on the brain.

Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (like DHA from fish oil) normally make up cell membranes throughout your body. And like other saturated fat, they’re fundamental building blocks for your brain cells. That’s part of the reason fish is often called a brain food.

Flavonoids

The antioxidant effects of flavonoids are well-established in a test-tube setting. But these plant compounds—like cocoa, ginkgo, and grape-seed extracts—have more complex actions in the body that is continually being researched.

Some flavonoids show promising results in maintaining healthy brain function. Quercetin—a flavonoid that’s a major component of ginkgo biloba extracts—has been shown to maintain memory and learning abilities in some studies. Further research on the subject is needed.

B Vitamins

Adequate levels of the B vitamin folate are essential for brain function. The proof? Folate deficiency can lead to neurological disorders, like depression and cognitive impairment.

Clinical trial results have deepened the connection between folate and cognitive function. These studies have shown folate supplementation—by itself or in conjunction with other B vitamins (B6 and B12)—to be effective at maintaining healthy cognitive function during aging.

Other Nutrients

There are more nutrients for brain health. Here’s a short list of the other nutrients with researched roles in brain health:

  • Alpha lipoic acid has been shown to maintain memory and cognitive function.
  • Vitamin E, or α-tocopherol, has also been implicated in cognitive performance. Decreasing serum levels of vitamin E were associated with poor memory performance in older individuals.
  • Curcumin is a strong antioxidant that seems to protect the brain from lipid peroxidation and nitric-oxide-based radicals.
  • Several gut hormones or peptides—like leptin, ghrelin, glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP1) and insulin—have been found to support healthy emotional response and cognitive processes.

Energy Production

The brain runs your body. And it takes a lot of energy to literally be the brain of the operation. Healthy macronutrients are necessary to fuel your brain and provide the energy it needs.

The mechanisms involved in the transfer of energy from foods to neurons are likely to be fundamental to the control of brain function. Processes that are associated with the management of energy in neurons can affect brain plasticity.

Far-Reaching Impacts

Lifestyle and diet have long-term effects on your health. That means they are likely underestimated for their importance to public health—especially when it comes to healthy aging. But they’re important to your brain. The gradual and sometimes imperceptible cognitive decline that characterizes normal aging can be influenced by the nutrients you feed your brain through a healthy diet.

These impacts go beyond your life, too. Through epigenetics, you pass on traits to your children and their children. Newer studies back this up. They indicate that these nutritional effects on your brain might even be transmitted over generations by influencing epigenetic events.

Contact us at East Coast Life Solutions

 

Coast Lifestyle

GROWING HEALTH IN THE GARDEN

gardening

All the benefits of Gardening

The garden is a great place to grow healthy produce. But the harvest is just the beginning of gardening’s health benefits. From exercise to stress relief, see how a garden can be good for you.

Exercising and eating right are said to go hand-in-hand, but when you work in a garden, they actually do. Gardening is one way to maintain your health and enjoy time outside. It’s a great way to keep fruits and vegetables in your diet, and get some exercise. Growing your own food is also healthy and sustainable for the environment. See how learning to garden can improve your quality of life.

Gardening Improves and Promotes Healthy Nutrition

Gardening is a hobby that can easily and effectively increase your daily access to healthy foods. Nutritious snacks and delicious dinners are only a stone’s throw away when you regularly keep a garden. Whether you garden at home or with your community, regular access to fruits and vegetables improve your nutrition.

Surveys of children whose schools have after-hours gardening programs illuminate how beneficial gardening can be for individual nutrition. Teachers at schools with these programs can utilize the garden in developing health and nutrition curriculum.

A 2005 study of fourth grade classrooms with after-school gardening programs provides a great example. In the study, teachers reported the eating habits of their students had improved with regular access to their school’s garden. Principals reported a nearly two-fold increase in use of the cafeteria salad bar by students.

The students also illuminated the health benefits of the school garden in their personal nutrition. Fourth graders were surveyed before and after the incorporation of the school garden into the curriculum. They answered two yes/no questions: “I eat vegetables every day,” and “I am physically active every day.” There was a significant increase in the proportion of students answering affirmatively after participating in the gardening program.

gardening

Gardening Provides Exercise on a Daily Basis

It should be noted that in the study mentioned in the previous section, children who participated in after-school gardening programs increased their daily vegetable intake AND their daily exercise. Gardening gets your body to work and gets you into nature.

Gardens require daily care in order to produce plentiful crops. Harvesting the rewards of a diligently kept garden can motivate gardeners to get up and move. Gardening provides the body with moderate cardiovascular exercise. Regular exercise of any kind, including gardening, reduces the risk of heart disease and can improve strength and stamina.

Older-aged populations can have trouble finding regular exercise regimens for which they feel well-suited. Gardening is great functional exercise for everyone, including the elderly. Functional exercise refers to activities that include: stretching, pushing, pulling, lifting, squatting, etc. These activities all improve muscle tone and flexibility, and improve general well-being.

Gardening Improves Self-Perception of Mental Health

Gardening has been called good for the soul. There are actually several aspects of this hobby that make that description accurate.

Gardening promotes mental and physical health. When you garden, you interact with nature on a regular basis. It also gives you a chance to serve others. Simply put, gardening makes us feel good.

A number of studies have recently reinforced the importance of our relationship with nature. Being immersed in nature, including a garden, opens the door for creativity to bloom. Unplugging from technology and stepping outside to do work in the garden is refreshing for the mind and spirit.

The physical exertion required in gardening helps maintain blood pressure in the normal range and increases your production of endorphins. Endorphins have been referred to as “feel-good” hormones because they help us feel happy and full of life. Endorphins are also crucial in reducing stress. That’s why so many people take up gardening as a stress-relieving hobby.

Gardening Can Establish Community and Boost Civic Engagement

In addition to relieving stress, gardening also provides opportunities to serve others. After working in a community garden, many gardeners give their extra fruits and vegetables to friends and neighbors. This kind of community engagement and service encourages a healthy mental state and helps build strong communities.

Community gardens have been increasingly popular in neighborhoods far from a dependable source of produce, like farmer’s markets and grocery stores. Community gardens are also almost always free to use or require very little in order to participate.

These gardens are funded through grants and city budgets, and are staffed by volunteers and garden experts.

Community members have access to cooking classes, healthy meal-preparation instruction, and gardening help through these local programs. Skill-building opportunities for participants, involvement of volunteers, and commitment of local leadership have made especially successful community gardens.

Community gardens have continued to flourish in cities across the globe because they promote public health and a high quality of life. They encourage healthy living and eating, community engagement, and civic and neighborhood pride. These gardens also promote sustainability and the local environment.

Summary

Gardening, in your own yard or as a community, is a great exercise in proper health and nutrition. Being active in your garden relieves stress and provides your body with regular exercise. Gardening can also give you the chance to build a deeper relationship with nature, which has been shown to improve mental health. Community engagement and neighborhood pride come as a result of spending quality time in your garden. Take the chance to develop your green thumb and try gardening.