The second law of brain longevity reads, “What works for the heart works for the head.” That means that there are lifestyle measures which you can do to help your heart and memory as well.
At this moment in time, there is a lot of stress in our world and stress also affects negatively our general health, mind, mood, and memory. Stress can hurt your heart, causing high blood pressure, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes and, moreover, stress may also lead to memory loss.
Stress may cause a total disruption in your hormonal system, thus affecting your brain’s control center, the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and your adrenal glands. This leads to fatigue, immune system weakness, obesity, and diabetes.
Another notably negative effect of stress is that it also produces the death of critically important cells in your brain’s memory center, called the hippocampus. When the hippocampus shrinks as a result of less brain cells, this can lead to depression, as well as memory loss.
I’m a big proponent of regular meditation to lower stress-related cortisol. But, in addition to meditation, regular physical exercise is also very important to keep your stress levels at bay and your hormonal system functioning well.
As an anesthesiologist, I know how important it is to keep a person’s nervous system under control. When I’d give my patient an anesthetic during surgery, I could tell if I was doing a good job or not by how well the patient responded to the stresses of the operation. The way I knew how well I was doing was by monitoring their blood pressure and heart rate. If those two went up, I’d have to give the person more anesthetic in order to lower the patient’s stress.
Interestingly, research has shown that when a patient’s nervous system is kept under control during surgery, they do much better during the operation. They have less blood loss, heal faster, and suffer from less pain after the surgery. These positive reactions occur because of less stress stress-related hormones being released into the person’s system.
Moving away from the operating room, lifestyle measures can also help you keep your nervous system under control, your stress levels low, and your memory robust. Among the many lifestyle measures that will do this is physical exercise, such as cardiovascular training, weight training, and body weight exercises.
Throughout history, it’s been generally accepted that physical fitness benefits the mind. In 400 B.C., Plato remarked that a healthy body was necessary for a healthy brain. Thomas Jefferson once said that he believed in exercising 2 hours a day. President Kennedy, in establishing physical goals for America’s children, responded to Jefferson’s view of exercise by stating, “ If the man who wrote the Declaration of Independence, was Secretary of State, and twice President, could give it two hours a day, our children can give it ten or fifteen minutes.”
When it comes to your mind and memory, it’s a good reason to exercise. As we’ll soon see, many important physiological brain functions are improved. Because of all these wonderful enhancements in anatomy and physiology, cognitive power is maintained. In fact, it’s been scientifically proven that physical exercise prevents Alzheimer’s disease by fifty-percent (50%). Certainly there is no drug or vitamin supplement that is able to make that claim.
In my next month’s article, I will lay out more proof on how exercise can improve your brain, lower your stress and prevent memory loss.