As we age, there are rapid changes occurring in our body, including that of our brain. Hormonal changes affect how our bodies react to external changes, both physically and psychologically.
There are however, many ways in which we can keep our brain and mind healthy and active throughout our lifespan. Even as aging takes place, we can control our cognizant functions by taking active steps to protect our brain and nervous system.
Our brain and nerves are dependent on each other. Therefore it is important to nourish the brain and nerves together, so that their electrical impulses flow smoothly, without any glitches. When the nerves get damaged, or deteriorate, the brain has a hard time to send the correct messages to the rest of the body, because the nerves are the bridge between the brain and the body.
We nourish our brain and nervous tissue by eating a high fat diet, and maintaining a strict lifestyle. Our lifestyle habits must include limiting the amount of alcohol, drugs and/or medication consumption we have. These substances often have mind-altering effects, which are harmful for the brain and nervous system when consumed long term or even short term, in excessive amounts.
Smoking is also very detrimental for overall health, but especially for the brain. In Ayurveda, smoking disrupts our natural balance of Vata Dosha, which sets off alarm bells for the onset of all kinds of mental illness.
Habits which dry out the body, like smoking, excessive travelling, stress and worrying, eating raw foods without any fat source, etc, are all Vata aggravating.
When Vata Dosha is imbalanced in our brain, we experience feelings of delirium, mental exhaustion, uncontrollable emotions, fluctuating mood-swings, memory loss, and other signs and symptoms of diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Bipolar Disorder, Depression, ADHD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, PTSD, Anxiety etc.
Here are 5 steps to protect your Brain and Nerve Health :
1. Stimulate your brain and thoughts by reading, doing puzzles, watching educational videos, listening to audio books etc.
2. Get adequate sleep - the older you get, the more sleep your body requires. Get at least 7-8hours of sleep during the appropriate hours of 10pm-6am. Staying awake at night, or working night shifts, are extremely harmful for the health of your brain. You will feel disoriented, groggy and frustrated. This will lead to unhealthy sleeping habits which will eventually destroy your health.
3. Consume Ghee and other healthy fats. Ghee is a natural fat made from cow's milk, that lubricates and nourishes the cells of the nervous system. When the nerves are lubricated and healthy, they are able to transmit the electrical impulses from the brain to the rest of the body quickly and efficiently. This practice also prevents the rapid aging of cells.
4. Maintain your blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Uncontrolled high blood pressure and blood sugar, can lead to stroke and cerebral edema by damaging and weakening your brain's blood vessels, causing them to narrow, rupture or leak. High blood pressure can also cause blood clots to form in the arteries leading to your brain, blocking blood flow and potentially causing a stroke. When the brain does not receive enough oxygen because of edema or a stroke, the brain cells die, which can result in permanent brain damage and/or death.
5. Control your stress levels. Meditate for at least 20-30mins a day to help ease your mind and relax your body. Avoid high stress situations as much as possible. Turn towards spirituality and prayer to help with life's challenges.
Overall, your brain health is very dependent on the active choices you make during your lifetime. The sooner you realize the importance of taking care of your brain and nerves, the higher your chances of living a healthy life, far into your 100's. Even if you're realizing the mistakes you've made in your earlier days, it is never too late to start taking charge of your health. Apply the above mentioned lifestyle and diet changes to your life, and watch how much better you feel. Your body and mind will thank you.