Over the last number of years, it seems that increasingly in the media we are seeing people live with neurological conditions that affect the brain such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Stroke and other disorders. At the same time there has never been so much emphasis on the benefits of regular exercise and the optimum diet for a healthy body and brain.
We are being bombarded in the media with information written by specialists, experts, bloggers, and anyone with a social media account, having their weigh-in. Everyone has an opinion on what good health is but is there a simple one size fits all formula to follow?
Having attended the lecture on ‘Our Beautiful Minds: Our Brains and how they shape our lives’‘ earlier this week by Professor Shane O Mara, Professor of Experimental Brain Research in Trinity College, I learned that maybe being healthy isn’t as complex as all the newspapers, magazines, and online media make out. The three main points I took from the lecture were simple in their own way. He highlighted the importance of exercise, sleep, and giving your brain a chance to rest. Very simple suggestions but can we actually follow through? Why should we even try?
Looking at the most recent statistics in Ireland, it is estimated that over 700,000 people in Ireland live with a neurological condition, representing about 17% of the total population of Ireland. These conditions include acquired brain injury, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, dementia and other progressive, intermittent or disabling conditions of the brain or spinal cord. While not all neurological conditions are preventable, there are certain things we can do that can reduce our risk of developing these conditions.
Poor health is never far from anyone’s door and it makes no exception to your social status, religion, race, or otherwise. Last year the infamous Billy Connolly came out to speak about his diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease. In the last few years the country music singer Glenn Campbell, made known for his hit ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ released the movie of his farewell tour as a result of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. Last year Amy Huberman and Brian O’Driscoll featured on the cover of the Irish ‘Parkinson’s Ireland’ Summer magazine as Amy’s father is living with Parkinson’s Disease. As we are living longer we are also living longer with and developing neurological conditions.
With increasing evidence linking exercise and diet, mindfulness and relaxation to improved health, we need to look at what we can do on a daily basis to maintain good body and brain health. Over the age of 30 on average you lose slightly less than 0.5% of your brain each year. It has now been proven that by exercising alone you can increase the size of your hippocampus, a part of the brain that makes memory. Research also supports being socially active, it reduces your risk of dementia.
Here are some more suggestions to improve your body and brain health:
· Exercise regularly
· Maintain a good sleep routine
· Give your brain a rest
· Eat a well-balanced diet
· Challenging your brain
o Read a book
o Do a crossword
o Travel to new places
· Learn something new
· Keep socially active
· Keep a check on your cholesterol/blood pressure/ weight
· Adopt a positive attitude
Our generation are living longer but we need to ensure that we’re living Better too. Give yourself the best chance at ageing well.