It’s easy to see signs and symptoms when it comes to our aging bodies but changes and deficits involving our thinking, balance, memory and mood are much more subtle to notice. Neuroscience and understanding the brain have been one of the last frontiers for medicine, but we may be at a turning point given some amazing medical advances. CT perfusion, cerebral angiography and SPECT imaging have been instrumental when it comes to looking at small blood vessels and blood flow to the brain. Functional MRI (fMRI)and Diffusion Tensor Imaging are helping neuroscientists map out various neuronal tracts including white matter tracts and regions of the limbic system (where our emotions and memory reside) to help us understand the complexity and interconnectedness of our central nervous system and our bodies.
Let's look at it from a less technical view. We have known for eons that when we exercise our bodies, there is increased blood flow through the vessels that feed our brain; subsequently our brain remains healthier. Since our brain is the seat of our cognitive capabilities, memory, speech, movement, hormonal secretions, emotion, motivation and consciousness, it behooves us to keep it as healthy as possible and prevent or reverse the aging process by reversing our modern sedentary lives.
Chronic diseases such as vascular disease, hypertension and diabetes cause pruning or narrowing of vessels which then result in decreased blood flow and decreased oxygen to our brain. In addition, built up toxin clearance is decreased at a cellular level when our vessels are narrowed. Exercise can improve flow through these narrowed vessels. Exercise also helps improve the quality of our sleep. Restful sleep is what's most needed when it comes to clearing out toxins. Finally, exercise helps release natural endogenous endorphins that boost one’s mood and sense of well-being.
In a later blog, I’ll share some fascinating research that appears promising when it comes to natural supplements. These supplements still need extensive reasearch but seem to boost our brain health at a cellular level. A few products studied presently include Acetylcholine, Alpha GPC, Huperzine A, Bacopa Maria, Gingko Bilboa, Lion’s Mane Mushroom to name a few. Note to the reader, supplements should be taken with the guidance of medical professionals, lest they interfere with other prescribed meds or cause other side effects.
As for now, let’s embrace and incorporate perhaps THE MOST EFFECTIVE BEHAVIOR that can help prevent chronic disease as well as improve our cognition-EXERCISE. The mind-body balance can be optimized when we engage in 30-40 minutes of moderate exercise each day. Want a bigger bang for your buck? Head outdoors. Being in nature brings out the AWE factor and makes us achieve serenity and gratitude by getting in touch with our roots, no pun intended. For now, it’s safe to say that an apple a day is not the thing that keeps the doctor away and that movement, especially done outdoors, can go a LONG way when it comes to achieving the Mind Body Spirit Balance.