Well, hello 2020!
Let's kick off the year by exploring something important. And that would be the health of your brain.
When you're in your 40s or 50s, the accepted notion is that we're on the way to losing a step in the mental department. Sure … you can't find your car keys, and why did you just walk in that room anyway?
But don't give in to the popular cliches. Your brain is not only capable of improvement at midlife, I'd say it's job number one as we head into a new decade that promises to be wackier than the one we just left behind.
Hopefully by now you know that working out isn't just good for your body. Exercise also improves your memory, motor skills, ability to learn, and actually increases the size of your hippocampus.
And yes, when it comes to your brain, size matters. Did you know that in addition to the multitude of other negative impacts, sleeping poorly is linked to a rapid reduction in brain volume? Forget “sleep when you're dead,” and get some sleep before you're dumb.
And finally, if you've been considering taking up meditation, make this the year. The practice is proven to help with stress reduction, improved concentration, boosts to working memory, reduced rumination, less emotional reactivity, and more cognitive flexibility.
It's the output of a healthy brain that we're interested in, after all. More tips at the click:
It's now well established that exercise has positive effects on the brain, especially as we age. Key events in the evolutionary history of humans may have forged the link between exercise and brain function … so you can't really ignore it.
Can You Hear Me Now?
Have you heard about this? Hearing loss is the largest modifiable risk factor for developing dementia, exceeding that of smoking, high blood pressure, lack of exercise, and social isolation.
Lawyers, Gums, and Money
“Long-term exposure to periodontal disease bacteria causes inflammation and degeneration of brain neurons in mice that is similar to the effects of Alzheimer’s disease in humans, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago.”
The Gym Prescription
Yes, exercise is wonderful for your body and brain, in many ways. What's interesting though, is that the total benefit is more than the sum of say, lowering your cholesterol and blood pressure or protecting your heart and cognitive abilities. Is it time to treat working out like medicine — a therapy that can be prescribed in specific doses for specific needs?
Down below, Trudi explores a part of the brain that has a big impact on your well-being. It's called the vagus nerve, and it's easier than you think to put it to positive work for you.
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By Trudi Roth
Great news for Gen X women: new research shows we’re driving the “wellness travel trend,” heading off to far-flung places to decompress and destress. (And you thought that was just the plot of Girls Trip 2.)
Better news for those of us who don’t have the time or resources to travel: we can enjoy the same therapeutic benefits of, say, a yoga retreat in Bali, by developing a simple daily practice of vagus nerve stimulation.
Knowns as a “vagabond” for all the places in your body this 10th cranial nerve wanders — connecting your brain to your heart, immune system, gut, and other organs — this complex system of nerves also rules your body’s relaxation responses.
Best news of all: toning your vagus nerve is the kind of workout that’s easy to get behind. Breathe deeply, yawn, stretch, or hug it out with someone, and enjoy the stress release.
The vitality of the vagus nerve
I first learned about the vagus nerve from a TEDxBoulder talk given by my cousin, who is dealing with its atrophy thanks to early-onset Parkinson’s Disease. While her focus was on the nerve as a major route of disease progression, she recognized its implications for anyone who neglects their neurology.
Science shows a clear link between symptom changes in many common ailments, including depression, migraines, asthma, epilepsy, and acid reflux, and the vagus nerve:
“Pick almost any common medical condition that’s made worse by stress or inflammation — everything from arthritis to inflammatory bowel disease — and there’s research showing that vagus nerve stimulation can help treat it or relieve its symptoms.”
Stimulate stress relief
Bioelectric medicine, which uses devices, not drugs, to stimulate the vagus and other nerves to alleviate symptoms of many chronic diseases, holds a ton of promise. But you don’t need a fancy setup to enjoy the benefits of vagus nerve stimulation.
Got garden-variety stress, sadness, or anxiety? Take a yoga class, meditate, or get a deep tissue massage — all of which research shows promote parasympathetic nervous system activity.
My cousin also recommends vigorously rubbing your head for a couple of minutes each day, gargling with tap water, taking a cold shower, and deep diaphragmatic breathing while smiling. You might look a little silly, but that download of bliss chemistry will make you say Viva las Vagus!
Styx – Mr. Roboto
Kilroy Was Here, 1983
Fans of the show Mr. Robot had to wait four seasons until the series finale to hear the song that ended up telling the entire story — Mr. Roboto by Styx. And it was glorious, no matter how cheesy it's been for the last 36 years. (YouTube)
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