Four Pillars of Brain Health
Dr. Andrea Wilkinson, founder and CEO of BrainShape
Brain fitness is similar to physical fitness, but instead of exercising your body, you are strengthening your mind. Optimizing your mental abilities is not a new concept. However, most of the information provided in magazine and newspaper articles about brain health is vague and not personally relevant (e.g., learn a language, play an instrument, do a crossword, etc.). Adults who are looking to protect the health of their brain as they age need advice that is meaningful to them and easy to incorporate into their everyday lives.
Dr. Andrea Wilkinson is the founder and CEO of BrainShape.ca – an online community for adults who want to enhance their mental and physical vibrancy and energy as they age. Dr. Wilkinson has a Ph.D. in Psychology, with a specialization in Cognitive Aging, and has been researching brain health and cognitive maintenance for over 15 years.
On the BrainShape.ca platform, Dr. Andrea teaches the four key pillars of brain health:
- Physical fitness
- Food & nutrition
- Mental considerations (including sleep, stress management, and mental challenges)
Four Pillars of Brain Health
To have a healthy brain, you must move your body. Dr. Andrea recommends that you move your body (in whatever way you can) for at least 30-minutes a day. Research shows that humans grow around 700 new brain cells every single day. These new brain cells (called neurons) grow specifically in an area of the brain called the hippocampus (associated with learning and memory). When people are physically active, the number of new brain cells that grow daily have been shown to double or even triple!
Food and Nutrition
Eating well is essential for the proper functioning of your brain and body. An overall healthy diet is more important than individual foods, nutrients, or spices. Research from 2019 shows that higher intake of nutrients (e.g., vegetables, whole cereals, fish & poultry) is linked to slower cognitive decline over nine years. To keep your brain and body healthy, focus on eating nutrient-dense, unprocessed, whole foods.
Verbally communicating with others in a meaningful way is a complex mental task and is a predictor of cognitive health as you age. But how much we like to socialize is an individual need. If you are an extrovert, you may want more social interactions than an introvert. Regardless of your personality type, enjoying close relationships with others can provide emotional support that indirectly helps during a crisis or chronic stress.
Mental considerations include challenging your mind as well as getting enough sleep and managing stress (too much cortisol, the stress hormone, is bad for your brain). When it comes to mental challenges, there is no finite list of activities that exist to exercise your brain. We all have different needs. What you need to do to challenge yourself mentally is unique to you, and needs to be grounded in your own interests, hobbies, and skill sets.
To learn more about brain health from Dr. Andrea Wilkinson, listen to the BrainShape Podcast - a weekly show that covers the latest brain health research and shares interviews with experts in the field of health and aging. The BrainShape Podcast is available on all podcast platforms or listen through their website at http://www.brainshape.ca/podcast