As we get older most people think that their brain begins to get weaker. Most believe you will begin to forget things. You can’t find your keys. You can’t remember your passwords. They are even called “senior moments”. Are these lapses in memory sign of a deteriorating brain?
Science paints a different picture about age and memory. Memory is not the most important measure of brain health. The brain at any age makes improvement. Most of the beliefs about improving mental health are based on outdated information and commercial greed.
Scientist used to believe that we are born with all the neurons (brain cells) that we would ever have. And that our ability to form new brain ended once we reached adolescence. We now know that our brain is the most adaptive organ in our body. Our brain constantly changes by the way we use it. Changes in our brain can be measured within just hours. We can be introduced to a new application in the morning and be very proficiently with use of the application by the evening.
When we focus on new learning we produce new neurons. The new learning can be a report at work, learning to do a new type of puzzle or preparing a new recipe. If these neurons are not put to good use they will die. As we age, our ability to think more broadly and deeply can continue to grow if our brain is exercise correctly. The development of new neurons is a function of the frontal lobes, which sits just behind and above your eyes in your skull. Your brain health is tied to all parts of your brain but the majority of the heavy lifting is directed through your frontal lobe networks. Your frontal lobes are responsible for decision-making, judgment, planning and other “executive” functions.
To keep your frontal lopes functioning to maximum efficiency you should try to be curious, creative and get involved in problem solving. You want to challenge your brain. You want to engage in new conversations. This can happen by reading a newspaper and having a conversation about some of the articles.
The next time you watch “Jeopardy” don’t feel you are not as smart as the contestants. They are using their ability to remember random facts. Memory skills don’t correspond to everyday life performance. A brain that becomes too occupied with remembering everything doesn’t work efficiently, becomes more stressed, gets overwhelmed and becomes bogged down in too many details. So don’t worry about something you can’t remember. We tend to forget we still remember a lot of other things. Occasionally forgetting names or unimportant task is not a threat to brain health. When forgetting begins to interfere with your performance it may be a sign that something more serious is happening. Many things can impair your memory such as not getting enough sleep, some medications, lack of exercise, recreational drugs, poor nutrition and stress.
Most people think that “multitasking” is the way to exercise the brain. Not true. When you ”multitask” your brain has to call on different parts of the brain to handle the load. Your brain will be working inefficiently because the communication isn’t synchronized. When you “overuse” the brain this way, your frontal lobes become fatigued. This will slow efficiency and decrease performance.
When you have more than one task to accomplish stay focus on one task at a time. Turn off your phone. Don’t check your email. Minimize distractions. Just doing these few tips will insure a more efficiency use of your brain. Don’t get caught up in the “Multitasking” fad. It doesn’t work.
Is your brain linked to your IQ? Not true. IQ test are based on measurements that were developed almost a century ago. These test emphasize such skills as knowledge, memory and speed in the ability to perform mathematical equations. All of these measurements were more important before computers and the Internet. Einstein once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”
Too much mental work can slow down your brain too. Putting in long hours to solve problems will not get the work done as fast as knowing when to stop and rest your brain. Productivity and achievement are not linked to how many hours you work and how much information you accessed. If you decrease exposure it will allow your frontal lobes to focus on key data and know what information to ignore.
If I had to give advise to what you need to give your brain some help it would be to drink water. Just running a little bit low on fluids can slow your brain. Over 60% of your body is made of water. You have to keep that balance of water if your body and your brain are to function well.
If a person gets in about 2,500 ml. of water each day then 2,500 ml. of water must be eliminated to maintain water balance. Of this volume approximately 60% will be lost in urine, 6% in feces, and 6% in sweat. Another 28% will be lost by diffusion through the skin (which takes place all day long) and evaporation from the lungs. These percentages vary when factors such as temperature, relative humidity and physical activity come into play.
Water provides a valuable source of minerals like calcium and magnesium. It carries nutrients to your organs and tissue by way of the blood stream. Water also aids in the digestion of food and the absorption of nutrients into the body. It carries away bodily waste and cools the body through perspiration. Water also moistens mucous membranes and lubricates the joints.
Sleep is the next important factor in brain health. If you get the right amount of sleep you will get the most out of your brain. If you don’t get enough sleep your brain will work less efficiently and you’ll stop making new neurons. Get less sleep than what you need and you’ll find yourself stressed more often and you’ll get sick more often. You need 8 hours of sleep to keep your brain sharp.
You only have one brain. Take care of it.