Which Prescription Would You Choose? Pt 2

In our last article we explored how having, growing and repairing a healthy brain can be and should be FUN! We talk about a healthy brain in the sense of what it is made of, how it is built and how it works. Most importantly it can be invigorating and enjoyable regardless of your age. 

What if you were offered a choice between these two prescriptions?

 

Prescription 1

PATIENT NAME:

REPEATS:

YOU

UNLIMITED


Go out dancing with your friends…
…and/or wander the golf course with mates
Learn to play an instrument
Eat some grilled salmon or drizzle your salad
with chia seed oil
Savour two pieces of dark chocolate
Laugh out loud
Sit and relish a short mindfulness exercise
Hug someone you love for at least 6 seconds
Try some new brain games
Quaff one small glass of grape juice

 

Prescription 2

YOU

UNLIMITED

PATIENT NAME:

REPEATS:


10 mg ARICEPT (donepezil hydrochloride)
20 mg LIPITOR (Atorvastatin)
50 mg EFFEXOR (Venlafaxine)
1000 mg PANAMAX (Paracetamol)
7.5 mg TEMAZEPAM
*** NB: this is not actual medical advice !
OR THIS COULD READ:
A pill for memory
A pill for your heart
A pill for mood
A pill for your pain
A pill for your sleep

 
 

Let’s continue to explore the second half of our prescription for a fun and a fit brain more carefully. If you are really serious about making some changes to improve your brain health, it isn't to late to sign up for the Your Brain Matters - 21 Days of Brain Healthy Habits at yourbrainmatters.org.au/challenge.

 
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Sit and relish a short mindfulness exercise

There is an old Buddhist joke:

The Dalai Lama approaches a hot dog vendor.

The hot dog vendor asks, ‘What’ll it be?’

The Dalai Lama replies, ‘Make me one with everything’ and hands over a ten dollar bill.

After a few moments the Dali Lama impatiently asks ‘Where’s my change?

The hot dog vendor replies ‘Buddy, change comes from within’ (Rinzler, 2012).
— Rinzler, 2012
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The wonderful changes you can drive within with simple mindfulness meditation exercises are multifaceted. Smiling Mind – an app we often recommend to Patients at The Perth Brain Centre – offers this conclusive evidence: The universities of UCLA, Harvard, Oxford, Monash, Johns Hopkins and Lund have all undertaken studies on mindfulness meditation, proving that regular practice helps combat stress, improves focus and increases resilience. Brain imaging has also shown that meditation even changes the brain, thereby reducing our stress response. Let’s pause to insert a three minute breath awareness exercise here…

 

Hug someone you love for at least 6 seconds

Love. Psychiatrist, Elizabeth Kubler Ross, in her well known book On Death and Dying (1997) taught that love is everyone’s potential, that acceptance is integral to love. Shaffer’s (2016) report sites that love in a laboratory, in the form of a little TLC for lab rats, resulted in continued production of neuroplastic gains that were sustained through a 50% longer lifespan, wow! Imagine how this translates in terms of neuroplasticity and wellbeing in humans. Hugs, cuddles, snuggles are just one type of physical expression of love – well known for releasing our bonding and reward hormones, oxytocin and dopamine. We can connect to love through meditation too (Cole, 1999).

 
 

Try some new ‘brain games’

In April this year internationally-acclaimed neuroscientist Dr. Michael Merzenich revealed a new approach to fighting dementia to a global gathering of experts in Kyoto, Japan.  Dr. Merzenich is the Chief Scientific Officer of Posit Science, maker of BrainHQ brain exercises and assessments.

Dr Merzenich says “We don’t have a magic pill to prevent or cure heart disease, and, instead look to behavioural changes to reduce risk and early interventions to address symptoms”, perhaps we should consider the same proactive approach to brain health. “There is a rapidly growing consensus among thought leaders that we need a similar approach to cognitive decline. That approach will include nutrition, physical exercise and environmental factors – but the single most important elements will be lifelong monitoring of brain health and appropriate brain exercises” (Merzenich, 2017).

Older brains become predictable and repetitive (Hillman, 2016). Dr Hillman, Professor of Intensive Care, suggests exercising your brain to avoid this predictability, this ‘same old, same old’. One way we can do this is to stop relating to the same old stories: don’t complain about drivers and the weather; don’t retell the same amusing anecdote out of habit rather than interest.  Dr Hillman says ‘Instead of being predictable – work on your curiosity and open-mindedness, bring a different perspective to the way things are always reported, do a bit of reading, think a bit laterally. Try to shock and impress people with your new and insightful interpretation of things’ (Hillman, 2017). Dr Hart in The Brain Book (2016) highlights this concept describing what happens to your brain when you learn. Dr Hart states continuing changing challenges are important, once new learning has happened and has been effectively programmed, it becomes less challenging and less brain stimulating. The best mental exercise is acquiring new knowledge and doing things you have not done before. Life-long learning keeps neurons firing, makes it easier for them to fire and keeps the synaptic connections healthy (Hart, 2016). Indeed Benjamin Franklin had it right all those centuries ago when he said ‘When you’re finished changing, you’re finished!’ (from Rinzler, 2012).

 
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Quaff one small glass of grape juice

Polyphenol resveratrol (say that ten times fast while you’re sipping on a glass of it !) increases longevity while preserving memory and parts of the microstructure of your brain (Shaffer, 2016). This polyphenol is found in delicious treats like: dark grapes; grape juice; cranberries; blueberries (Shaffer, 2016) and red wine (Langton, 2015). So to that we say cheers!

Perhaps, while you’re sipping, you can check out the Your Brain Matters website and sign up for the 21 Days of Brain Healthy Habits and start making some positive changes today: https://yourbrainmatters.org.au

If you would like to find out more about your (or a loved ones) current cognitive health The Perth Brain Centre has cognitive screening tests available. Appointments can be booked by calling 6500 3277.

 
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