Three Key Components for Optimal Brain Health
It’s here folks! The poinsettia are in bloom, the Christmas lights are glowing, and the smell of pine and cinnamon are in the air. Some of us can’t help but get excited about the holiday season, but with the excitement of the season comes a variety of stressors. Old man winter kisses the air, seasonal affective disorder touches us all on the north shores of Ohio, and let’s face it- there’s a certain trepidation looming ahead as we prepare to spend the holidays with family. Stress affects us all in different ways. The part of the body that takes the brunt of the abuse is our brains, especially our frontal cortex. This is the part of the brain underneath your forehead which deals with the daily problems and solutions to complex issues. The front part of our brain is what allows us to do mathematics, rationalize, analyze, hypothesize and visualize but most importantly it gets the creative juices flowing & allows us to express our inner Einstein. This part of the brain dictates who we are, what we’re about & how we express ourselves. Are you a “Tiny Tim” or “Scrooge” this Holiday Season? How about this year instead of letting the Grinch come out in your brain, turn those follies into jingle bell jollies and get in the spirit this Christmas season.
“He’s making a list, He’s checking it twice….” How do you think Santa Claus keeps those Christmas wishes organized for the good boys and girls of the world? Well, I’m sure he has an exceptionally large frontal cortex, which, controls executive function. Of course, making a list is one recommendation this holiday season. If you rely solely on your brain capacity alone to remember all those holiday details, you’re bound to forget something. Making that list encourages left-brain function of the frontal cortex.
When you break it all down, the brain needs three things: oxygen, glucose, and stimulation. It seems like this time of year it’s very easy to get “all wrapped up” in the holiday frenzy, so I urge you to support that brain with the fuel it needs to survive the holiday madness. So just breathe. It is easy to get caught up in a sympathetic state of breathing. Have you ever noticed your breath during stressful times? If not, stop and observe what is going on with your body in a stressed state. Typically, you use a very small percentage of breathing capacity when stressed. It is important to understand that the lungs have three lobes: upper, middle, and lower lobes. We rarely use the upper and lower lobes and are out of our comfort zones when we do so. A variety of exercises can make you use those lobes, such as burst exercises or simple breathing exercises.
The latest research proves that burst exercises are some of the best exercises to combat some of the most degenerative brain conditions such as Parkinson’s disease. A burst exercise essentially takes all that you have, to propel your body through the active motion you are trying to complete. For example, when I go for a jog, I set my repeat timer for every two minutes. When the timer goes off I sprint with all that I’ve got for 30 seconds and recover with a slow jog for the next 90 seconds. So every two minutes I am picking up the intensity to essentially maximize the capacity that my body can handle. By the end of thirty seconds, I am completely winded and it takes every bit of the 90 seconds to recover before the next BURST. This is just one example of a burst type exercise. There are so many things you can do and I urge you to do as many as you can and as often as you can. I would be willing to bet it will decrease stress on your brain. Let’s use common sense here though folks, so if your body is not ready to hit the streets running as I explained, then you must complete an exercise that is within your body’s safe capacities. If you do not feel comfortable advising yourself or if you’re uncertain about your limitations, then consult your physician before completing any exercise.
How about glucose for the brain? The brain’s main fuel source is glucose, but can also survive on ketones. If you want to know more about how the brain functions on ketones, then check out some of my previous blogs. Glucose is derived from the foods we eat. It is important not to overload the brain with glucose. Too much of anything is bad for us. So, when the holiday treats present, try not to overdo it. If you know you are going to indulge, then combat those calories with exercise. It all ties together. If you exercise, you get oxygen. If you exercise you help balance your blood sugars. And if you exercise, you are stimulated. This requires all the neurological connections in the brain to work together in harmony to complete the task.
Other forms of stimulation for holiday balance are playing games. Whether you have young children at home or you are lone wolf around the holiday season, there is no reason you can’t increase the blood flow to those vital areas of the brain with a variety of games. You could do a memory game to stimulate the hippocampal region of the temporal lobe to create plasticity to the short-term memory area of the brain. You can do Sudoku to support the analytical left-brain and complete those tedious little puzzles. How about grabbing a coloring book of winter scenes to fire that right brain through creative activities? Whatever it is, just take some time to play among the holiday frenzy. For some of you that aren’t as faint hearted, go out and find that pickup game. The winter season is the perfect time for games like indoor soccer, basketball or volleyball. Start by looking around your local YMCA or other gym facilities in the area for action. I use a website called Gamesnake to find local pickups in the area.
So, I leave you with one key phrase. “Use it or lose it.” The brain is such a precious organ to waste. Why not treat it right this holiday season with a few of the tips recommended by one of your favorite Chiropractors. Keep Warm and Keep Happy. Merry Christmas!
Dr. Andrew Kender III DC
Dec. 14, 2016
Akron: 2800 S. Arlington Road, Akron, Ohio 44312 (330) 644-5488
Cleveland: 6200 Rockside Woods Blvd., Ste. 100, Independence, Ohio 44131 (216) 236-0060
Dr. Keith S. Ungar, Dr. Andrew Kender, Dr. Robert Nichols, Chiropractic Physicians