HOW would you like to balance a three-pound weight around on your shoulders?
Well, you are doing it already, in case you didn’t know. It’s called your brain and it’s tucked neatly inside your skull computing the world around you.
In fact, by the time you had read that first paragraph your brain had been sparking away — changing and adapting to the very words you had absorbed and the ideas it had provoked in you.
At one stage we thought that our brains had a limited amount of cells and that they died off as we aged.
That’s because those cells, called neurons, unlike other cells in our body, don’t reproduce.
Now we know that we can actually grow new neurons in some parts of the brain, right up to our death; that our brains have a plasticity.
That’s good news, because it means we have some control over how our brain changes as we age and how to keep it in good working order.
If you try to maintain good heart health you are doing a favour for that three-pound wonder as well.
For instance, the American Heart Association declared last October that high blood pressure was associated with an increased risk of vascular cognitive impairment later in life.
Vascular cognitive impairment describes a range of changes in brain function, from mild to severe, caused by the impaired flow of blood to the brain. So get that circulation moving and keep that blood pressure down.
Another study published in the Journal Of The American Heart Association suggested having a healthy heart can help preserve brain processing and cognitive function over time.
Researchers looked at certain lifestyle choices and whether they contribute to a healthy heart and how they impact cognitive abilities.
Do you know what those lifestyle choices included? Not being a smoker; maintaining a healthy body weight; being physically active; having a good diet and keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol in check.
One well acknowledged way to keep renewing our brain cells is by challenging it with novelty; learning something new. When we push ourselves out of our comfort zones, our everyday familiar routines, we become more ‘alive’ — more open and curious about the world — and our brain responds accordingly.
Some other influences are:
n Socialise — get out there and connect.
n Meditate or de-stress — chronic stress affects our memory
n Ditch the stereotype of ‘feeling old’
n Get plenty of sleep and do something to make you laugh.
If you want to find out all about how your brain works and how to keep it healthy check out www.hellobrain.eu. This fantastic resource is fun to read and in the process of learning, you will be sparking new neurons in your very own personal computer.
You may even change your mind about how you want to age in general, because what we think, influences hugely how we behave — and how we “compute” the world around us.