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Four ingredients for a healthy brain

By Dina Halaseh , Family Flavours - Jun 09,2019 - Last updated at Jun 09,2019

Photo courtesy of Family Flavours magazine

By Dina Halaseh

Educational Psychologist


We talk about keeping our body healthy but what about our brain? Let us embark on a journey into the brain! Here are the four ingredients for a healthy brain. 


Step 1: Exercise


One of the advantages of exercising is increasing the flow of blood throughout the body, including the brain. This increases the oxygen in the brain and helps improve mental sharpness. Comparing elderly people who exercise to those who do not, we see a massive influence from exercise on their cognitive functions. Skills such as response time were higher amongst active persons.

It is never too late though; you can get the benefit of exercise if you start today! Exercise helps build neural connection and increases the neurons’ ability to withstand stress and resist damage. Starting a new sport or working out in any way will enhance cognitive skills.


Step 2: Sleep


Who does not enjoy sleeping? We spend such a huge part of our lives doing so, but is it actually important?

Sleep is a vital component to our health in general and to our brain in specific. This is a missed point among many parents. Sleepdeprived students tend to have trouble with impulsivity and motivation, as well as lower brain function in general.

For younger students, just having them sleep well and exercise will instantly improve their academic performance. Not getting enough sleep not only makes us cranky, but it also affects our attention, executive function, reasoning ability and overall skills.

The exact amount of sleep needed is different from one person to another. It changes with time due to many factors including age, pregnancy and gender.


Step 3: Diet


No need to think twice to understand that eating habits impact the central nervous system. We all know how it feels after a huge meal; no one can function well. Imagine doing so regularly; what will that do to your brain?

Science shows us that even if overeating does not cause obesity, it will still impair brain function.

We always worry about how overeating may cause diabetes, heart disease or obesity, but in reality, it also results in weaker brain function. To maintain a healthy functioning brain, our food should be filled with leafy greens, Omega-3 fatty acids, raw walnuts, fish, avocado, broccoli, oranges and berries, all of which actually boost brain power. Staying away from sugar seems like an impossible task, but once the addiction is broken, it becomes much easier.


Step 4: Brain training


Use it or lose it! Brain exercises are just as important as physical exercises. If you want to keep your brain sharp and healthy, you need to ensure you allow your brain to build new brain cells and neural connection. Continuous learning and trying new things will enable you to develop new skills and help your brain adapt and respond to challenge in a much better and improved way. Here are a few tips on how you can do this:

• Learning new things and going back to studying helps you stay sharp and fight mental decline.

• Pursuing a new hobby — learning a new language, music or even art improves your brain ability. The more you challenge yourself, the better it is for you in the long run!

• Solving crosswords, sudoku, chess and online brain training games. These games help increase mental skills. This needs commitment and perseverance from your end, and just like physical exercising, to improve, you need to do this continuously.

We always ensure that we are medically healthy, that is a given. When we are sick, we aim to get better. Yet we forget that being healthy is not as simple as not getting sick. By merely striving to stick to exercising more, eating better, sleeper longer and training our brain, we ensure that our brain gets what it needs to stay healthy.


Reprinted with permission from Family Flavours magazine

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