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Immortal Musings

Part 3b of My Longevity Formula - Brain Health

by Ralph Kenney

April 14, 2017


Brain Health
Most of my longevity formula targets physical health. But what about cognitive health? It would not be a happy scenario to arrive in my 90’s with six-pack abs and lack the brain function to enjoy it.

As a guy addicted to intellectual pursuits in general, cognitive decline and conditions like Alzheimer’s do concern me.

The good news on this front is that the brain is one big physical organ. So, the things we do to improve our health are widely shown to also benefit cognition. There is quite strong evidence linking physical activity to improved brain function in seniors.

Remember in part 1, I talked about fasting? There is also strong evidence showing that fasting improves neuroplasticity (your brain's ability to grow new brain cells and increase connections between parts of the brain) and fasting increases brain activity in the parts of the brain related to memory and spatial recognition.
But is there more we can do?

Remember those brain training programs that were all the rage a few years ago, the ones with lots of mental “games” promising to improve memory and even IQ?

The most recent research indicates that most of those don’t actually improve cognition (although subjects do improve at the games themselves).

Now, don’t get mad at me, if you are one of the millions of people addicted to these games and confident it’s helping you. At least one study confirms that if you believe these games will improve your IQ, they do. So, if you already invested in brain training apps, skip this section…quick before it stops working!

What research shows does help is continuously challenging your brain by regularly learning some new skill that requires a diverse set of mental capabilities.
Last year I learned Russian. I’m far from fluent but if you need to find a teashop on Red Square, I’m your man!
“Где можно купить хорошую чашку чая рядом с Красной площадью?”
A couple of years ago I wrote a 600-page work of fiction. Was it any good? I don’t know. But the point wasn’t becoming the next Hemingway. It definitely stretched my creativity muscles!

Other good examples are, taking up a new musical instrument, learning a complex real world game like bridge or meditation.

I don’t have a lot of science to back this up but I strongly recommend laughter, travel and spending time with friends and family.

Quick tip:  Ever notice the music they play at most gyms?  

At my gym, the current fave seems to be a heart-warming ditty that repeats over and over, “Hands on your knees, bounce that “a--” like a yoga ball.” 

Gee thanks, I’ve never felt so motivated!

I’ve started wearing my headphones at the gym and listening to comedy podcasts instead. Yes, I look like a geek laughing my non-existent buns off to a voice only I can hear. But you know what? I am a geek, so get over it.

I'm starting my day laughing. Laughter is good for both the soul and mind and it makes my rest intervals a lot more fun than another helping of workout motivation from Tygah.

The Brain Training I do recommend.

There is another kind of brain training, also known as neurofeedback.  Brain training with neurofeedback usually involves connecting small electrodes to your head and providing visual and/or auditory feedback or stimulation that in effect trains your brain to find and maintain certain desirable brain states.

This kind of brain training has been linked to improving ADHD, PTSD, reducing stress, improved focus and learning, improved memory, depression and more.

My first experience with neurofeedback was an expensive series of sessions at a brain training facility in Sacramento, California. Each session left me buzzing with calm energy and a sense of connection that is hard to put in words. 

The technology has come a long way since then. You can now pick up a pretty sophisticated home kit. However, they are still pricey and there’s a steep learning curve. I suggest visiting a professional first and see how you like it before making the big investment.

Next up, Sleep. See you then. 

Ralph

Owner & Founder - Immortalitea

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