Friday, May 23, 2008

Exercise Your Brain

(Homer Simpson's brain)

I have a big birthday coming up so aging is on my mind. Having things "on your mind" is good because the brain benefits from being stimulated.

The story that you are born with all of your brain cells and you use only 11% of your brain throughout your life is wrong, wrong, wrong. Brain imaging research with PET scans and fMRI scans show all areas of the brain are stimulated with different activity. The entire brain is used in an active person.

We also generate new nerve cells (neurogenesis) throughout our lives and maintaining mental acuity is what we all strive for, right? One question scientists are asking is "Are mentally sharp people more engaged socially and with more stimulating activities, or does staying involved create better functioning brains?" What comes first? Studies have shown that people who exercise have improved cognitive function. It may be the result of improved blood flow, neuro hormones and neurogenesis from exercise stimulated growth factors. Perhaps exercise cuts down on other diseases that affect the brain like diabetes.

Stimulating the brain with new inputs like travel, language, music and engaging with interesting people also has been shown to increase memory and cognition. Trying new things, not getting stuck in a rut, staying engaged and involved with all aspects of life are important for brain power. Unfortunately, none of this will reverse or stop the dread disease, Alzheimers.

As my birthday approaches, I am comforted to know that I have a condition that affects 100% of people...aging. There is no stopping it and all of the growth hormones, supplements, antioxidants, plastic surgery, Viagra and push up bras are ineffective at halting the relentless aging process.

But what is better than a prescription to eat a Mediterranean diet (yum...olive oil, wine, vegies, fish and nuts), play with interesting and fun friends, travel, read, have sex and embrace learning new things? If that is the prescription for having a healthy brain, sign me up.

2 comments:

Healthnut said...

Happy Birthday! Don't worry about aging. We all have to go through it in life. Just be proud that you are healthy and well.

Rich said...

Happy Birthday Toni!!! Sign me up too I'm up for that kind of fun. I like getting old it's better than the alternative.