HEALTH

How your lifestyle im­pacts on your brain’s health is cru­cially im­por­tant – and right now is the time to make pos­i­tive changes.

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Easy nat­u­ral ways to boost your brain power.

WHEN IT COMES TO main­tain­ing your health, you might think about your body and what you need to do to keep it in shape. How­ever, there’s one part of you that’s equally, if not more, im­por­tant to care for – and that’s your brain.

Thanks to med­i­cal ad­vances and sci­en­tific re­search, we now un­der­stand far more about the brain’s func­tion than was known in our grand­par­ents’ day. This is tremen­dous news, as we are aware of the lifestyle tweaks to make to en­hance the brain’s per­for­mance.

It’s easy to re­mem­ber: with­out your brain, noth­ing hap­pens!

Neu­ropsy­chol­o­gist Dr Nicola Gates PhD, au­thor of A Brain For Life, be­lieves many of us still don’t fully ap­pre­ci­ate what our brain does. She says this is es­pe­cially true if you’re in your 20s, 30s and 40s, when thoughts of brain de­cline or se­ri­ous ill­nesses such as de­men­tia are not gen­er­ally top of mind.

TIME FOR AC­TION

One of the key mes­sages Dr Gates says she wants to con­vey is that it’s the 20-, 30- and 40-year-olds who need to be giv­ing more thought now to the fu­ture health of their brain.

“Of­ten they say, ‘later, later’ [when it comes to im­prov­ing health]. It’s not

later, it’s to­day,” Dr Gates says. “We pro­foundly take our brain for granted.”

She points out in her book that it’s the mem­bers of Gen­er­a­tion X (born be­tween 1966 and 1976), who are car­ry­ing “more weight, have a greater num­ber of ‘lifestyle’ re­lated chronic med­i­cal con­di­tions, ex­er­cise less and have a higher in­ci­dence of men­tal ill­ness… than pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions”.

Dr Gates says younger peo­ple need to think about fac­tors like whether they smoke and drink lots of al­co­hol, eat a diet high in pro­cessed foods and in­dulge in recre­ational drug use.

YOUR FU­TURE SELF

“It’s very easy for 20-year-olds to feel om­nipo­tent and fan­tas­tic, which of course they should, but the idea is not to squan­der that,” Dr Gates says. “Cul­ti­vate an at­ti­tude of op­ti­mal

health to ap­pre­ci­ate what Mother Na­ture has given you.” And un­der­stand that what we do in our younger years “car­ries for­ward” to our older years.

“What legacy are you set­ting up for your fu­ture self?” she asks. What we do from “around 30 on­wards” is im­por­tant to pro­vide a fu­ture buf­fer against ill­ness, for ex­am­ple, clin­i­cal de­men­tia.

“From my per­spec­tive, recre­ational drug use has be­come nor­malised and it’s quite con­cern­ing in re­la­tion to a per­son’s fu­ture health. So chronic abuse of ec­stasy, for ex­am­ple, can re­sult in Parkin­son-like de­men­tia,” Dr Gates says. “All ex­ces­sive recre­ational drug use ul­ti­mately fries the brain.”

Walk, ride, run Reg­u­lar aer­o­bic ex­er­cise can help to im­prove brain func­tion.

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