WHILE WE BELIEVE mental toughness is a learned behavior, your brain (think of it as the machine that powers that learning) performs only as well as you allow it. On a recent interview with PBS, Dr. Rudy Tanzi, Vice-Chair of Neurology and Director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital, shared some thoughts on simple lifestyle changes that can help support brain health.
BRAIN HEALTH & THE HEART
“During exercise you help remove the pathology, you help stop inflammation — which is a big part of disease in the brain,” says Dr. Tanzi. “You even induce the birth of new stem cells that will turn into nerve cells in the short-term memory area of the brain.” Meaning, when you work out your body, brain health follows suit. "Every time you learn something new, you're making connections between nerve cells, called synapses. You're strengthening the ones you have."
“We just realized over the years that during deep sleep — what we'll call slow wave sleep — is the only time the brain doesn't make the amyloid that creates plaques,” explains Dr. Tanzi, referring to the sticky build up that can accumulate around neurons. “It’s the only time the brain actually cleans itself out. I call that deep sleep mental floss.” Make sure to get plenty of sleep (preferably 8 hours) nightly to promote healthy “mental flossing.”
Although everyone’s nutritional needs will vary, Dr. Tanzi says, “The Mediterranean diet has been shown to be most effective in reducing risk.” He goes on to explain that a good rule of thumb is exactly what TB12™ believes in: a plant-based diet. “Fruits, nuts, less red meat,” Dr. Tanzi says. “That could include moving over to fish. It could be taking on a vegetarian diet, getting other sources of protein...but basically less red meat.”
Exercise boosts brain health. But there's more to it. “Not just moving physically, which is exercise, but moving socially. Stay socially interactive,” Dr. Tanzi suggests. “Don't hold yourself up. Stay intellectually active, learn new things. Every time you learn something new, you're making connections between nerve cells, called synapses. You're strengthening the ones you have.” Get in the practice of exercising your brain along with your body.
“We're learning more and more that stress is related to inflammation in the body,” says Dr. Tanzi. “Stress can produce chemicals in the brain that are toxic to nerve cells, and we've also seen studies now, including ones I'm doing, where meditation and stress relieving activities have been shown to be very beneficial on your gene activity. Taking up a meditation practice, even a simple one, can be useful." Don’t forget to manage your stress to promote a more balanced lifestyle. These tips from Dr. Tanzi are just a handful of ways you can help support your brain’s physical health. Learn more about TB12’s personalized brain exercises at TB12 BrainHQ.