“The human brain has 100 billion neurons, each neuron connected to 10,000 other neurons. Sitting on your shoulders is the most complicated object in the known universe,” says Michio Kako, an American physicist.
Unfortunately, the cells in our brain – called neurons – can die from various reasons such as infection by viruses, injury and genetically hereditary conditions such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. Neurons would also die a natural death after a certain period of time, and whether the body can create new neurons to replace the dead ones is a topic still highly debated among scientists today.
Until we have more definitive answers as to whether dead neurons are replaceable, it makes perfect sense for us to take good care of our brain.
During the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2014, a 2-year clinical trial of older adults at risk for cognitive impairment suggested that a combination of physical activity, nutritional guidance, cognitive training, social activities and management of heart health risk factors has shown to delay cognitive decline.
In simple terms, that means there is no need for fancy supplements or brain training classes. You should, instead, live healthy and stay alert. You can start with the following tips:
Give your brain a shot. Get vaccinated against infections that can affect your brain, such as encephalitis and meningitis.
Move more. Great news: all your efforts in keeping your body in good shape also helps your brain by keeping the heart healthy and maintaining good blood flow to the brain, among other benefits. Be on the move at least 30 minutes a day.
Food for the brain. Limit the amount of oil and fats, and up your intake of fruits and vegetables. Such meals help keep the heart healthy, and a healthy heart is linked to decreased risk of dementia.
Give your brain a workout. Read more often (good news: books have no GST!), play mentally stimulating games such as crossword puzzles or Sudoku and try to learn new things often, for example by joining classes or watching documentaries. If you are always on the move, you can read your books in digital format or play such games on your mobile phone.
Go out more. Interestingly, studies suggest that being more sociable can help reduce the risk of depression as well as delay the onset of dementia, especially when we grow older. If you are not a person who makes friends easily, there are many ways to meet new people. For example, if you prefer the company of cats or dogs to people, so why not volunteer at the neighbourhood animal shelter?
Alzheimer’s Association. Available at www.alz.org