What Do You Value Most About Your Brain?

If you read my last blog post, you already know that there are five areas of well-being that impact your ability to live life to the fullest and to be at your best for the people you care about. Today’s spotlight is on #2.

Pillar #2: Cognitive Well-being

When your cognitive well-being is at its best, you are able to focus, remember important details, generate new ideas, learn new things, make smart decisions, and sustain intellectual engagement evenly throughout the day. Unfortunately, many people still believe the myth that your cognitive health will naturally decline as you age – THIS IS A BIG MYTH! In a recent interview with Dr. Hyman, I learned that 95% of cases are actually preventable!

If you want to take good care of your cognitive well-being, it’s best to start as early in life as possible, but it’s never too late! Your cognitive well-being is directly impacted by the following:

  • health of your microbiome (the community of good microbes who live in your intestines and do a wide assortment of things for you – including the production of neurotransmitters and immune cells),
  • the quality of your sleep,
  • how much you exercise,
  • the depth of social connections,
  • opportunities to keep your brain engaged in learning and building new neural connections,
  • and perhaps most importantly…your insulin sensitivity!

Here are some tips for taking care of each component of your Cognitive Well-being:

Your microbiome: Avoid ultra processed foods which damage the microbiome. Eat plenty of high-fibre foods (think whole, raw vegetables, greens and fruits). If you have taken a lot of antibiotics throughout your life be sure to take probiotics to counteract the damaging effect of the antibiotics. Did you know that the average North American today only consumes 6 to 10 grams of fibre per day? And that the vast majority of our ancestors consumed an average of 150 grams/day?

Sleep quality: When you are in deep sleep, your brain gets to do clean up. One to two hours of deep sleep per night is the ideal. Eating your last meal of the day three hours before bedtime will help your brain go into deep sleep. Making your sleep environment cool and pitch-dark will also help.

Exercise: Consistency is more important than intensity. It’s all about using your body on a daily basis. Walking 30min of day is much better than sitting around all day. Doing strength training a couple of times per week is even better.

Social connection: Stay tuned for the email on Area #4 to dig deeper into this one.

Learning: Learning stimulates your brain to keep making new connections. It keeps you challenged and sends a message to your brain that it still has important work to do, and so it better stay strong and healthy. The brain is just like a muscle, the more you use it the stronger it gets. But this alone is not enough to maintain your cognitive health. You definitely need to pay attention to the other components of cognitive well-being.

Insulin Sensitivity: Yes! Every time you eat something that spikes your blood sugar, your body produces insulin. The more insulin it has to produce overtime the more insulin resistance you build up. This is a big problem for the brain which depends on insulin sensitivity to maintain healthy brain activity throughout the day and while you age. The best way to prevent this from becoming a problem is to avoid ultra processed foods, refined sugars, artificial sweeteners, and simple carbs. You can learn more about this in my free e-book.

Have a smarter day, a smarter week and a smarter life,
Ginny Santos, a wellbeing advocate.

PS: If you know someone who could also benefit from these thought-provoking messages, please forward this email or invite them to sign up.

A love note from your future self:

What do you value most about all the things your brain does for you? Is it your ability to share your stories, the stimulating conversations you get to have, or your ability to concentrate on difficult tasks? It’s easy to take your cognitive health for granted when everything is working well. I invite you to take a moment to appreciate it today.

Love, from your future self

Disclaimer: The content contained in this blog is for educational and inspirational purposes only. You should not rely on this information as a substitute for, nor does it replace medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other health care professional. Do not disregard, avoid or delay obtaining medical or health related advice because of something you may have read on this blog.

Dr. Anke Verlinden is an award-winning clinical haematologist at the University Hospital of Antwerp in Belgium. As a senior staff member, she specializes in treating patients with acute leukemia, guiding them through the process of stem cell transplantation. She initiated a project on the effects of mindfulness meditation on the immune system function and quality of life of cancer patients in 2019 while also deepening her understanding of the role that food plays in our health and wellbeing.

Anke is the mother of three kids, one of whom was born with severe heart disease. This, combined with the increasing number of questions from patients on the possible effects of nutrition and lifestyle on their healing process, gave rise to several years of study and experimentation in areas that are not covered in medical school, plus a nutrition science degree from Stanford Medical School and a certification in Functional Medicine. She is now also a WILDFIT certified coach as part of her effort to help patients recover better and more quickly from cancer treatment.