Healthy Mind And a Healthy Body
A healthy body equals a healthy mind
Eating a balanced diet of healthy foods, getting enough sleep, and doing something physical every day will all keep your body in tip-top shape. But you’ve probably noticed that when you don’t get enough sleep, eat junk food, or don’t get outside much, your body gets sluggish and your mind doesn’t feel sharp.
Scientists have recently discovered the reason why the brain needs a healthy body to work well. It needs nutrients in food from the rest of the body to send messages through nerve cells and to keep working at peak levels. This finding has led scientists to call for changes in diet and lifestyle for people who are sick because of not eating right or exercising enough.
Why brain cells need healthy bodies
Although scientists still aren’t sure exactly how or why this works, they’re finding more evidence that demonstrates how important it is. In 2008, a group of scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas found evidence that nerve endings (which are called axons) on brain cells called astrocytes had receptors that linked to proteins in muscle.
In effect, that means these cells can receive signals from the muscles, including messages about exercise and nutrition. That gives them a way to coordinate with the body’s other systems to keep brain cell health humming along. In fact, when researchers looked at brain cells taken from people with Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS), they found signs of damage in those astrocytes and not in neighboring neurons. The researchers think that the lack of nutrients or oxygen from the bodies of people with ALS causes the astrocytes to die off, and that might be the key that starts the process.
Scientists have been looking at how physical activity and a balanced diet help keep your brain working well for some time. But they’ve found that even in rats and mice, a healthy brain needs a healthy body. In a 2007 study conducted by scientists from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, they found that exercise seemed to make brain cells more flexible and more able to form new connections with each other.
When rats were given a chemical that prevents new connections, activity in their brains decreased. If the rats then went through regular running on a wheel for seven weeks, this chemical had no effect on brain cell activity. In fact, the activity of the cells had increased to normal levels.
The researchers think that exercise was helping to grow new connections between brain cells and making them more flexible. They say that we humans have similar processes going on in our brains, and exercise could be one of the few ways to reverse some of the damage caused by Alzheimer’s Disease and other disorders that affect memory. Healthy brain cells are also more sensitive to “wiggle room” messages from the body, which are chemicals that tell the brain to move or burn calories.
Then they were put on a treadmill and had their oxygen levels measured every hour. Researchers found that the older mice were better able to keep up with exercise than younger mice who were given the same amount of exercise but didn’t have extra strength in their muscles. Mice with an older brain also need less food than younger mice because they run faster and can use up more oxygen.
How to keep your brain healthy as you age
People who are young and energetic have stronger brains than people who are old, and that’s why scientists say a regular exercise routine is important for aging adults. But even if you’re already in your 80s, here are some tips to help you keep your brain healthy:
Simplify the foods you eat
If you eat lots of junk food, your cells won’t get all the energy they need to work properly. In a study by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, older adults who were fed highly processed foods rather than whole foods had lower levels of blood sugar and cholesterol as compared to older adults who had high-quality diets.
The more active you are, the better your brain cells will work. In fact, even walking can help keep you sharp. A 2004 study of older adults in New York who took walks in their neighborhoods showed that after exercising regularly for four months, they had improved memory, attention, and other skills.
Stress creates extra hormones called cortisol and adrenaline that can hurt your brain cells by making them more vulnerable to damage and death. If stress is getting to you, take a deep breath and relax! You know what’s best for your body. So make sure you’re getting enough exercise and healthy meals to build a healthy body that works well with your brain.
Get enough sleep
Although you may think that getting more tidbits of sleep is a good thing, a 2003 study showed that people who got lots of sleep had lower levels of the chemical adenosine in their brain cells and were more likely to have memory problems. That means that if you don’t get enough sleep, your neurons will work sluggishly.
Eat less fat
High levels of cholesterol in your body can clog up brain cell blood vessels. A 2008 study by researchers at the University of Warwick showed that high cholesterol levels caused brain cells from the hippocampus to die off faster than normal. In addition, a diet high in saturated fats can make your brain age faster and die off faster as well.
Use brain-healthy foods
A diet that is high in fish, olive oil, fruits, vegetables, and green tea can keep your brain cells healthy and active. Many of these foods have anti-inflammatory properties that can prevent neurons from being damaged or dying off prematurely. If you want to sharpen your brain, drink green tea every day because it contains compounds called catechins which have been shown to protect the brain against Alzheimer’s Disease.