Photo used under creative use license courtesy of A Health Blog.
Guest post written by Anne-Marie Kovacs & Audrey van Petegem of The Succulent Wife. HumanaVitality is not an insurance product. This material is provided for informational use only. You should consult with your doctor.
While we may not be able to ward off brain disease, we can certainly exercise our brains to keep them as alert and nimble as possible. Our brains can age gracefully. To research this post, I sought the wisdom of my most trusted source on the subject: Ruth Curran, founder of Cranium Crunches.
About 10 years ago, Ruth suffered a car crash. Though she survived, it left her to deal with traumatic brain injuries. She struggled to form sentences and even thoughts. As part of her long-term rehab, Ruth chose to get her Master’s in cognitive psychology, and ultimately created her company to advise others on how to improve their cognitive skills, no matter their circumstances.
“Brain health is much about living a fuller, richer life. When you think about nourishing your brain and keeping it healthy, you are talking about chemicals and electricity. The key words for brain health are ‘activity’ and ‘balance’” says Ruth.
Here are Ruth’s five golden rules to enhance brain health:
- Don’t get too comfortable - Recent studies show that to stay sharp as we age, we need to continually challenge ourselves intellectually. Play games, take a class and undertake complicated tasks or hobbies like learning a new language, playing a new musical instrument or even taking a creative writing or coding class.
- Shake things up - Try new things or do old things in new ways. For example go through the supermarket in the opposite way you usually do or brush your teeth with the other hand. Ruth says, “We have our regular mental maps that we draw upon, but your brain needs to know it has other options.” So prepare yourself for that by learning how to solve the same problem in a different way. It’s about neuroplasticity, i.e., keeping your brain nimble and flexible.
- Release dopamine – Besides all the good things physical exercise does for our bodies, exercise also nourishes the brain with good chemical and electrical activity. With exercise, the feel-good, life-enhancing hormone called dopamine is released along other neurochemicals to help create balance. We are happiest and smartest when we are balanced. Listening to complicated music—like improvisation jazz & blues, or classical music—and engaging more senses more often release dopamine.
- Reduce stress - We know that stress releases cortisol and too much cortisol destroys the chemical balance in our brain. Practicing yoga, meditation, and guided relaxation can help reduce our stress levels AND cortisol levels. Ruth says, “It’s all about keeping the balance of your neurochemicals. You don’t want too many highs or too many lows.” But Ruth warns that balance is also lost when we don’t challenge ourselves or if we find ourselves in a rut. It’s like self-fulfilling prophecy: the less we challenge our brain, the less it will respond. She says, “The best way to nourish your brain is to live a full life.”
- Live a fuller sensory life - We should experience things more to light up those areas of our brains that process our sensory experiences. Studies demonstrate that different parts of the brain work with different senses, i.e. sight stimulates a part of the brain, while hearing, touching, smelling, tasting all activate other parts of brain. The best way to activate more of the brain is to activate more of the senses. This article suggests some fun ways to do that throughout each day.
It is rewarding to keep your brain healthy, so let’s go!
Humana is a Medicare Advantage HMO, PPO, and PFFS plan with a Medicare contract. Enrollment in a Humana plan depends on contract renewal. This information is not a complete description of benefits. Contact the plan for more information. Limitations, copayments, and restrictions may apply. Benefits may change each year.
This information is available for free in other languages. Please call Customer Care at the number on the back of your Humana member ID card.
Esta información está disponible gratuitamente en otros idiomas. Comuníquese con el Departamento de Atención al Cliente llamando al número en el dorso de su tarjeta de identificación de afiliado de Humana.