it or Lose it: Brain Longevity Strategies
I had four aunts who passed on in advanced stages of Alzheimer’s
Disease. So when I went to see Gary Anaka speak on Brain Longevity
in Parksville on Oct 14, I had an agenda.
“The looming demential epidemic” is not the result
of simply living longer, as many think. Apparently, the human
brain is having a hard go of it.
Anaka says our brain cells are like trees. Thin branches waving
around at the top are the dendrites (information in.) The main
blob of branches is the neuron (the body). The long trunk is the
axon (information out.) The roots are long and lanky with clusters
called synapses (transfer - connection stations).
A healthy brain has lots of dendrites, all waving in excitement;
lots of synapses connecting an endless stream of aha-s . A young
brain rejoices in sunrises and french fries, learning to tie a
shoe and making friends. Alas, later in life, when the excitement,
enchantment and commitment to life wavers a bit, routines turn
into ruts, and the dendrites thin out. With less stimulation coming
in, synapses break down. An Alzheimer patient’s brain looks
more like a tree after the wind storms of 2006. A couple branches,
and few roots. Only a fraction of the brain’s memory and
Why does this happen?
Possible contributing factors of dementia written about in articles
on the US National Library of Medicine website included hypertension,
smoking, artificial sweeteners, high sugar intake, lack of B vitamins,
folic acid, calcium, and “a low level of intellectual activity
(bad habits).” “Bad habits” covers a big territory,
over which we have a lot of control.
The web of highways built after World War II put us behind the
wheel. Small farms turned into suburbs. Television arrived. People
sat down. We became sedentary, passive observers. Combine that
with junk food, fast food, artificial everything and stress. Scientists
tell us the brain doesn’t do well in such circumstances.
Any chance of getting smart or staying smart in such an environment?
(Read “YES” loudly. Every time you say YES, the brain
is flooded with dopamine - i.e. happiness).
Here are some of Anaka’s list of 25 things to do for brain
Movement is the secret to the brain. Exercise! Our bodies and
brains long to walk – and build brain cells when we do so.
Swim, ride bikes, move!
Most brains experiencing memory loss are suffering from oxygen,
water and/ or nutrition deprivation. Breathe deeply. The brain
needs oxygen. Drink lots of water! Eat well and take vitamins
– especially Vitamins B,C,E, and Omega-3 oils.
Humour is important. So is art. Listen to good music! The brain
loves Baroque and Gregorian Chants. Heavy metal and hard rock?
Not good. Worse still are drugs and alcohol which create holes
in the brain. (See brain photos at www.mindworkspress.com.)
Using your hands is using your brain! Every touch, pull and tap
sends information to the brain. Garden, paint, knit, dance, build
things. Stand on one leg. Learn a language or a musical instrument.
Spend time in nature, especially beside moving water.
De-stress. De-clutter. Get at least 7 1/2 hours sleep. Make new
friends. Have a positive attitude.
Pay attention. Keep learning. If learning shuts down, the brain
Plasticity. The willingness and the ability to change is not just
a personality trait, but a brain capacity which we can practice.
Volunteer. It’s critical that we have a purpose and feel
needed. We were not designed to be passive consumers.
Of the best brain foods, fish and fish oils top his list. Blueberries
are second! Walnuts, kale, apples, bananas, berries, eggs, wheat
germ, greens, and rainbow foods. Brown rice and whole grains help
produce seratonin which keeps us calm and happy.
Brain killers are sedentary lifestyle, brain malnutrition, television,
video games, alcohol, smoking, monotony and meaninglessness.
Who makes the choice for us to live sedentary, brain unfriendly
lifestyles? Does anyone benefit from a population which is half
brain dead? Actually, there are those who benefit. So no one from
above is going to pry us away from our t.v. screens, take artifical
sweeteners off the market, put good music on our stereos or bring
back alternatives to the monotonous chain stores that are identical
from sea to shining sea. We will have to make positive changes
and choices for ourselves. This is our personal, grass roots brain
challenge. What brings us back to life?
A massive population of aging geniuses with dementia is a tragedy.
But we are not powerless. “If the people will lead, the
leaders will follow.”
Many blessings on our dendrites! May we enthusiastically embrace
this new day. Yes! If this is the Second Renaissance, we don’t
want to miss it.
Waves of Potential (www.wavesofpotential.com) sponsored Gary Anaka’s