Maintaining brain health


If you had to choose between good physical health or good cognitive function, which would it be?


It may surprise you to learn that more people fear losing their mind than their physical health, yet according to the Research & Development Director at American-based Chiva-Som, Dr Jason Culp, there are five simple ways to help avoid this.

A naturopath doctor, his focus on primary care is intended to help treat and prevent chronic or acute diseases using a combination of conventional medicines and traditional holistic philosophies.

“Those of us who have witnessed a loved one slip away through Alzheimer’s disease, understand too well about the major detriment that cognitive decline has on all aspects of health and wellbeing,” he says. “Although we cannot be certain of the future, the great news is there are simple and practical ways of promoting your brain health and cognitive function. Additionally, there are specific lifestyle practices that can help to ‘grow your brain’ (or at least form new nerves and neural connections in the brain),” he says.

This phenomenon is known as “neurogenesis” (neuro meaning nerve, and genesis create new), and Dr Culp says there are five simple and effective ways to promote brain health and help preserve cognitive function. They are:

  • A diet that is high in unsaturated fats, such as Omega 3, 6, and 9, can help promote the production of new neurons in the brain. Omega fats can be found in salmon, tuna, raw walnuts, cold-pressed olive oil, and freshly-ground flax seeds.
  • Aerobic activity has been shown to elevate moods and improve cognition as well. Research studies have shown that 30 minutes per day of sustained, aerobic activity has a positive impact on nerve growth and brain function.
  • Adequate sleep (six to eight hours uninterrupted) is crucial for learning retention by promoting the growth of new nerve connections. This process is called “neuroplasticity” and takes place each time we learn a new skill or habit.
  • Non-dominant hand exercises (neurobics) such as brushing your teeth, drinking your coffee, or messaging on the phone, can help you form new nerve connections, and improve emotional health and impulse control.
  • Playing an instrument has been found to develop greater connectivity between different brain regions in musicians. The combination of movements with sounds and visual patterns has led to enhanced neuroplasticity as well.


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