Okay, I’m going to try to keep my cool and not geek out. Cause I get that brain stuff is not the most glamorous of things to talk about in the health sphere. Let’s be honest, most of us want to get fit, have clear, glowing skin and become mermaids (is that last one just me?). But I’m super excited to talk about this topic today–because, holy moly, we have learnt a lot about the human brain in last few years. Seriously, did you know that 90% of what we know about the brain we’ve learnt in the last 15 years? How bananas is that?
Of course, that means that a lot of the ideas that we’ve come to accept as fact, are long outdated. So today, let’s talk about the brain, and why the f*ck we should care about (Spoiler alert: because you can become even more awesome).
Let’s dive in: here are the 3 brain myths that keep you from reaching your full potential.
Myth #1: You can’t grow new brain cells.
- Once upon a time, we believed that your brain developed from birth until you hit 25 years old, and then game over–it only goes down hill from there. And while yes, it’s true, you do lose brain cells as you age, we now know that you also create brain cells–around 700 new cells a day, even in your old age. The ability for brain to make new neurons (brain cells) is called neurogenesis, and your lifestyle is one of the biggest deciding factors of neurogenesis happening! This process mostly happens in the hippocampus, the part of your brain that stores memories, controls our ability to learn, and when not functioning optimally, is linked to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
3 Ways To Increase Brain Cell Growth
- Exercise: 30 minutes a day of sustained movement–think walking, hiking, swimming–increases blood flow to the brain, helps with stress relief and increases the release of Brain Derived Neutropic Factor, which is key to brain cell growth! This kind of aerobic exercise is even more powerful than resistance training when it comes to brain health–so make sure to include both for a happy mind and body!
2. Diet: eliminate foods like sugar and processed foods that actually worsen your brain health, and aim for foods that support brain health: cold water fatty-fish, blueberries, leafy greens, nuts and seeds. Stay tuned for a full list of healthy brain foods coming soon!
3. Reduce Stress: chronic stress blocks neurogenesis from happening, so stress management is key to health, optimally functioning brain. Meditation, yoga, exercise, mindfulness, sex and relaxing baths are great ways to reduce stress.
Myth #2: Your brain doesn’t change + you have to accept it.
Have you ever heard of a fixed mindset? This is how most people think of their brains: you think you’re good at some things, bad at others and that is that. Maybe you think, “I’m terrible with directions” or “I’ve always had a bad memory.”
But intelligence isn’t static, it can be developed–and your belief that you can’t become smarter actually limits your ability to be smarter. There’s a quote I once heard “whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you are right”. How powerful is that?
The more you practice something and work at something, the better you get at it. Talent isn’t an innate ability, it’s a learned ability. In fact, the more you practice something, the more you strengthen the connections between neurons and ingrain those habits in your brain. Ever gone to do something, realized you were on autopilot, and still you did it anyway, thanks to your “muscle memory”. This is neuroplasticity at work: your brain is malleable and capable of growing and changing and learning.
It’s never too late to be smarter, to learn a new skill or change your attitude!
Myth #3: Alzheimer’s + memory loss is a normal part of aging.
Alright, this one is so important. We often talk about “having senior moments” when we forget something–we treat memory loss as though it’s a normal part of aging, and Alzheimer’s as an inevitable consequence to growing old.
THIS IS NOT TRUE. Got it? Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging. Of course as you age, maybe you find it harder to remember details from stories you’ve told in the past, or maybe you forget the name of an acquaintance. But not remembering where you live or who your family is? That is not normal and we shouldn’t treat it as such.
Alzheimer’s and dementia is a fatal disease, in which neurons die, the brain atrophies (shrinks) and we slowly lose the ability to not only remember things, but to function normally, as it affects our ability to control our own bodies. As it stands currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s.
However, as research is becoming more and more prevalent, we’re realizing there’s a lot we can do to prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia. Alzheimer’s is large preventable through diet and lifestyle, and only a small percentage of people have deterministic genes (meaning that they will for sure get it).
How To Prevent Alzheimer’s
- Quit smoking: smoking increases your risk of Alzheimer’s by 45%.
- Balance your blood sugar: there is a strong link between diabetes and Alzheimer’s, and diabetics are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s. So do yourself a favour and make it a priority to eat a healthy whole foods diet, low in sugar and processed foods.
- Eat a healthy diet: research shows that the Mediterranean diet (high in omega 3s, leafy greens, whole grains, and nuts and seeds) is an effective way of eating to prevent Alzheimer’s.
- Manage Depression: there may be a link between later-onset depression and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s, so it’s important to manage and prevent depression to the best of your ability!
So there you have it! The 3 brain myths that keep you from reaching your full potential! Are any of these new to you? Are there any brain misconceptions you’d like to learn more of? Let me know in the comments!