Excite Your Brain

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Brainiacs

Our human brains are a centralized mass of nerve tissue and supporting structures used as the center for thoughts and nervous system control. (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary and Thesaurus, 2007).  It is an incredible piece of living machinery.  According to an article in WebMD (June 2018), our brains can store more information than the Library of Congress and process it faster than a computer.  Believe this truth – the better you treat your brain, the harder it will work for you.

So, how do you pamper your brain and ensure that it stays nimble and ready for duty?  Well, you give your brain a treat;  you excite your brain.  Giving your brain a variety of activities to perform is similar to using your body to perform challenging and new activities.  Challenging your brain helps existing neurons to form new connections.

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Excite Your Brain

 Since you are getting ready to stimulate and exercise your brain, you need to nourish your brain. Glucose is one of the body’s main energy sources.  When this energy is in short supply the brain grabs it before our muscles.  Our brains use this energy source to power impulse control between our neurons.  According to Stephanie Watson (Living, WebMD, June 2018), our brains are selfish and always snatch the energy it needs to function at a peak performance level.  Obviously, our brain does all it can to prime itself to be ready for incoming stimulus from us.

So, let’s give it a variety of activities to perform.  Learning is always at the top of the list.  This includes reading, writing, listening to lectures, playing an instrument or trying to learn a new dance step.  The brain is instantly alerted that new information is coming and needs to be processed.  The ‘primed’ brain is ready for instruction.

Let’s mix up the activity a bit.  Add in some mental playing such as sudoku, crossword puzzles, chess, Scrabble or some problem-solving question.  Exploring an unknown physical surrounding also promotes intellectual growth.  Walk on a different route during your exercise routine,  drive down an unfamiliar street when you go to work, invite yourself to explore different directions when going to the grocery store.  Your brain is excited, working and making new connections just as your body would be making new muscle tissue if you were physically exercising.

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Primed and Ready

Your brain can hold 1 petabyte of memory.  That’s about the same capacity as 4.7 billion books or 230,000 DVD’s.  This is supported by 86 billion nerve cells in the brain.  All of this activity travels from one nerve cell to another at 268 mph, which is faster than the speed of a racecar. (Upfront, WebMD, June 2018)

Even though you may be tempted to slip into the multi-tasking mode to ensure that your brain is always excited, you may want to wait before taking that road.  Just as your body needs rest after an intense workout, so does your brain.  Ensuring that you get at least 7 hours of sleep each night gives your brain time to repair.  Intensely focusing on one task at a time will make you much more productive and efficient.  Practicing mindfulness, where you can focus your attention on the present moment, allows your mind to rest, destress, and recharge.  (American Nurse, Today – May, 2018 V.13, 5)

The brain uses 20% of your bodies calories for all of its’ amazing functions.  Imagine what you can do with an Excited Brain…

Lifestyle = Cancer ?

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 Can your lifestyle influence your cancer risk?

A recent report issued from DW – a News and Current Affairs source from Germany, indicates that there is truth in the statement that your lifestyle can influence your cancer risk.  The number of cancers related to lifestyles has multiplied in the past 10 years.  The Global Burden of Disease Cancer Collaboration states that lung cancer leads the way in this trend.  Bowel cancer brings up a close second with 1.7 million being diagnosed in 2016.  There is also an abundance of medical research to indicate that skin cancer can be reduced by our exposure to ultraviolet light.  Although this form of cancer is also influenced by genetics – skin tone, we can adjust our daily lifestyle to decrease our vulnerability to this type of cancer.  Unfortunately, there is medical and physical evidence of lung cancer’s link to tobacco use.  This link has a long and torrid history. Even exposure to “vaping”, which is vaporized nicotine, may cause an increased susceptibility to developing lung cancer.

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 STRESS

People who experience an increased level of psychological demands in their high-stress jobs show a higher evidence of developing atrial fibrillation according to the DW report on lifestyle-related cancers.  Atrial fibrillation often leads to a common dysfunctional heart rhythm pattern.  If a person experiences this pattern they will notice shortness of breath, fatigue, general weakness, dizziness, and palpitations.  Attention to yourself if you notice these symptoms is a high priority as these issues generally cause 30% of all strokes.

Most of us have a towel in our kitchen.  We use this towel whenever we’re in the kitchen.  This means that the towel is sometimes wet and sometimes dry.  Since our kitchens can harbor millions of bacteria, these microorganisms can be transferred onto the kitchen towel.  These little bugs generally like nice warm places – like our kitchen towel.  So, when you dry your wet hands using this kitchen towel, you may actually be transferring millions of bacteria from one object to another.  This process multiples when there are more people living in a household.  So, even if you adhere to the age ole’ rule of great hand washing, you may actually be canceling out your efforts when you dry your clean hands using a “dirty” kitchen towel.  That innocent kitchen towel may be a culprit of disease.

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 Kitchen protocol

We all know that we eat junk food; sometimes a lot, sometimes not so much. What we eat influences our health.  A study at the University of Virginia indicates that eating an egg a day improves blood sugar levels and insulin resistance in overweight and obese people.  A similar study focusing on nutrition from Tufts University, Massachusetts suggests that eating 1.5 ounces of pecans on a daily basis can aid in reducing your risk of cardiometabolic disease.  Similarly, a Rusk University, Chicago study reveals that eating green, leafy vegetables and berries may decrease your risk of neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s.  Consuming complex carbohydrates found in mushrooms can fight inflammation is indicated by scientists at the University of Massachusetts.

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 Food

So, what can you do to decrease your risk of cancer?  Quit smoking, eat healthily, protect yourself from the sun, exercise regularly, exchange your kitchen towel often; consider using paper towels and look after yourself if you’re in a stressful, demanding job.  Even if you have a propensity for cancer, you may decrease your risk.

Plasticity

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Plastic is a substance capable of being molded. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary and Thesaurus-2012) This definition as it refers to our human brains includes the consistent reprocessing and re-pattering of events when one’s brain can create new neural pathways and thereby follow new responses to old triggers (The Guardian – July23, 2015).

When our brains change, our abilities change.  Dr. Micheal Merzenich and Dr. Norman Doidge of Brain HQ, condenses this information into a simple statement – “the brain can change itself.”  Through their research, both doctors have determined that the gray matter in our brains can shrink or thicken; neural connections can be forged, refined weakened and severed.

CNN.com (May 5,2011) reported this amazing issues when they related the story of Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords. She had been shot in the head by a bullet during a political campaign.  She made remarkable progress by forming new brain cells called neurons.  The feat was accomplished by repeated rehabilitation to relearn basic tasks.  A traumatic brain injury patient may be able to form new brain connections that allow him or her to talk and walk again.

Although part of the brain may be damaged, functions of the missing parts are taken over by reconnection pathways to other, healthy functioning neuros.  This forms new circuits to resume the lost function.  Albeit, this process may be slow, it is possible to regain the original ability.

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Research also shows that the opposite of plasticity is true.  If an available brain function isn’t used, it may shrivel and disappear.  Dr. Sanjay Gupta, neurosurgeon and CNN chief medical correspondent relates that when it comes to basic functions it truly is a “use it or lose it” idea.  That’s why rehabilitation to relearn how to walk and speak is so important.  Dr. Gupta says, “the more you improve in the early time period, the more you’ll improve in the long run.”  Since our brain is plastic, we should make it our best friend and nudge our neurons into functioning circuits that help improve us every day.