This is the first in a four-part series on brain health. Throughout this series, I’ll be sharing everything you need to know to keep your brain functioning optimally, including what nutrients to consume to prevent cognitive decline and life hacks that will help boost overall brain function. Before we dive in, however, I want to be sure you understand what your brain does and why brain health is so important.
Your brain is one of the most important organs in your body. With more than 86 billion nerve cells, it is the command center of a vast and intricate information network connected to every part of your body.
It is also home to both your conscious and subconscious mind which determines up to ninety-five percent of your behavior.
Given its importance, you might imagine the brain to be a large organ, but despite its importance, the brain only comprises two percent of your body weight. What it lacks in size, however, it makes up for in energy consumption, consuming twenty-five percent of your energy as well as twenty-five percent of your oxygen intake.
It’s a small organ with big needs!
Brain health and development begins in the womb and continues through the first two years of life. The conscious and subconscious parts of your brain – what you think, believe and your interpretations of the world – continue to develop through the age of seven.
While most of your brain’s development occurs early in life, it doesn’t stop there.
Your brain continues to grow new neural pathways and connections throughout your lifetime.
This is called neuroplasticity – the ability of the brain and peripheral nervous system to form, reform, and reorganize connections, especially when learning something new, or in response to brain injury (2,3).
In addition, your brain contains two hemispheres, the left, and the right. The left hemisphere of the brain is responsible for functions on the right side of the body and is known as the more logical and analytical of the two hemispheres. Conversely, the right hemisphere is the more artistic and creative side of the brain and controls the left side of the body.
Despite their differences, these two parts of the brain are in constant communication with one another; working together to coordinate balance, coordination, memory recall, speech, thought, and expression, among other things.
There are a few myths that I would like to dispel about brain health and function.
The first: is that you only use ten percent of your brain. This is simply not true. You use virtually every part of your brain and most of your brain is active almost all the time (4).
The second myth is that you can’t prevent brain function from declining as you age. Fortunately, brain cells are regenerative and you have the ability to strengthen your brain like any other muscle in the body. As long as you are taking care of this amazing organ, it can continue to rebuild itself and create new neurons and neurological pathways.
Part of maintaining the health of your brain is eating well and ensuring that your hormone levels are optimal. As the body ages, the production of essential hormones, like testosterone, decrease, so it is important to have your healthcare practitioner check your hormone levels and recommend treatment, if necessary.
Additionally, the brain is composed of at least sixty percent fat, so consuming healthy fats will help maintain the health of your brain. I’ll share more details on diet and its impact on the brain in a future post, but in the meantime, I’d like to hear from you.
What questions do you have about brain health? Ask away in the comments and I’ll be sure to respond. I may even dedicate a future post to the most common questions!