Welcome to The Brain guide – your total guide to optimizing your brain health in order to improve cognitive performance, power and function, prevent cognitive decline and age related diseases like Alzheimer’s, reach and surpass your goals, and feel overall happier and in control of your daily life.
From working with hundreds of women over the last 13 years I have noticed that if your brain is not performing optimally then you wont perform optimally either. You will struggle to stay focused and on track with your goals, you will not be properly equipped to make strong decisions in your daily life, you will not feel motivated in any of your ventures, your relationships will suffer and you will not feel completely happy in yourself. But when your brain is performing at its optimal capacity — well then the game changes completely. You literally step into your best self and surpass your goals, feel amazing and confident that life is going the way your desire it to go.
I can’t do justice explaining how this feels but I will do my best — you feel sharp, focused, pumped, energized. Your brain responds quicker and at a higher level than you have ever felt. Making decisions and staying focused on your goals becomes EASY! You feel up beat and motivated from the moment you wake to the moment you sleep. Your emotions are more manageable and feelings of sadness, depression and hopelessness — they just don’t happen. Doesn’t that sound incredible? I bet your saying ‘How can I have all of that?’. Well you CAN have it – in this guide I will teach you all aspects of optimizing your brain health for the present and future. Why wait for your brain to degenerate? Start implementing the tools in this guide immediately because your brain runs the operating system for your entire life and its time to take control xo
Your brain determines who you are and the choices you make.
Over the next 3 weeks in The Brain guide we will cover;
- Week 1 – About the brain, brain injuries, how to recognize cognitive decline, foods and movements to implement immediately for a quick upgrade on brain output.
- Week 2 – Sleep, toxins and energy to optimize your brain.
- Week 3 – Supplements for optimized brain power, continuing to maintain an elevated brain and being your best self.
Sound good? Absolutely! So lets dive straight in 🙂
About the brain, your amazing brain!
Do you love your brain? Of course you do but do you ‘care’ about your brain? Many people don’t care about their brain like they do about other parts of their body. But you really should! Your brain makes you who you are. It controls everything you do and think.
Still not convinced that you should care about your brain? Well in 2013 The WHO (World Health Organization) declared Alzheimer’s as an epidemic. With half a million Canadians suffering from this mental illness. 72% of the Canadians being women! The WHO expects this number to more than double in the next generation to approximately 1 to 1.3 million people.
Now if you don’t know what Alzheimer’s is, it is an age related degenerative disease that steals your memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. Also known as ‘Diabetes Type 3’ where there is insulin resistance in the brain. An epidemic is, the rapid spread of infectious disease to a large number of people in a given population within a short period of time. This means that cognitive decline is spreading at an uncontrollable pace and destroying life as we know it! This is not cool. I have no doubt I have now convinced you that you should care about your brain and through this guide I will teach you how.
The Brain is the most complicated system in the Universe. It weighs about 3 lbs and it has approximately 100 billion nerves cells. That’s about the same number of stars in the Milky Way – how amazing is that?! Each nerve cell is then connected to other nerve cells by 40 thousand individual connections — that means you have more connections in you brain than there are stars in the Universe.
A piece of brain tissue the size of a grain of sand contains 100,000 neurons and 1 billion synapses, all “talking” to one another. Information in your brain travels at about 268 miles per hour. If you don’t take care of your brain, you lose on average 85,000 brain cells a day.
In 2014, some clever researchers in Japan tried to match the processing power in one second from one percent of the brain. That doesn’t sound like very much, and yet it took the 4th fastest supercomputer in the world (the K Computer) 40 minutes to crunch the calculations for a single second of brain activity! In contrast, our miraculous brains operate on a level that not even a super computer can match. Although it is impossible to precisely calculate, it is thought that the human brain operates at 1 exaFLOP, which is equivalent to a billion billion calculations per second. Aaaamazing!!
Did you know –
Every time you have a thought, your brain releases chemicals?! That’s how our brain works – you have a thought, your brain releases chemicals, an electrical transmissions goes across your brain and you become aware of what you’re thinking. So every time you have an angry thought, an unkind thought, a sad thought, or a cranky thought, your brain releases negative chemicals that make your body feel bad and activates your deep limbic system (Your limbic system is an ancient collection of brain structures located deep within the brain. It is the emotional part of your brain and processes your sense of smell, stores highly charged emotional memories, and affects all sleep and appetite cycles, moods, sexuality and bonding). Think about the last time you were mad. How did your body feel? When most people are angry their muscles become tense, their hearts beat faster, their hands start to sweat and they may even begin to feel a little dizzy. Your body reacts to every negative thought you have.
On the other hand, every time you have a good thought, a happy thought, a hopeful thought or a kind thought, your brain releases chemicals that make your body feel good (and cools your deep limbic system). Think about the last time you had a really happy thought. How did you feel inside your body? When most people are happy their muscles relax, their hearts beat slower, their hands become dry and they breathe slower. Your body also reacts to your good thoughts.
You can train your thoughts though – to be positive and hopeful or you can just allow them to be negative and upset you. Once you learn about your thoughts, you can chose to think good thoughts and feel good or you can choose to think bad thoughts and feel lousy. That’s right, it’s up to you! You can learn how to change your thoughts and you can learn to change the way you feel —- One way to learn how to change your thoughts is to notice them when they are negative and talk back to them. If you can correct negative thoughts, you take away their power over you. When you just think a negative thought without challenging it, your mind believes it and your body reacts to it.
Again -Your brain determines who you are, the choices you make, how you feel, what you put in your mouth and what you do with what you put in your mouth.
What if your brain gets damaged or injured – you can be set up for a whole host of hell going forward.
There are approximately 1.7 million emergency room visits for traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the U.S. annually, and an estimated 300,000 veterans who have sustained TBIs during conflicts. On top of this, there are hundreds of thousands of unreported incidents of head trauma, including undiagnosed concussions each year. Unfortunately for many of those who sustain them, brain injuries that don’t result in a loss of consciousness often go unnoticed and are never treated. Even something as simple as banging your head off the kitchen press or car door is considered a brain injury and can cause undiagnosed concussion.
Overall the health community is very knowledgeable about the consequences of TBI and concussions – and how to identify them and heal the brain.
Common symptoms of mild to moderate TBI and concussions:
- Difficulty with concentration and paying attention
- Memory problems
- Difficulty with word finding
- Mental and/or physical fatigue
- Sleep problems
- Sensitivity to noise and/or light
- Angry outbursts
- Increased anxiety
- Social isolation
- Vision problems
- Balance problems
Research shows that undiagnosed brain injuries are also a major cause of depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse, homelessness, ADD/ADHD and suicide.
TASK: Ask yourself if you have ever:
- Played football, baseball, basketball, lacrosse, soccer, rugby or hockey?
- Fallen out of a tree, down the stairs, off a horse, a bike or a skateboard, or crashed while skiing or snowboarding?
- Been in a motor vehicle accident (even a simple “fender-bender”) or been physically assaulted?
Have you ever:
- Been hit directly in the head?
- Blacked out for a few seconds?
- Seen stars?
- Felt dazed or confused for a minute?
If you answered “yes” to any of these, or developed any behavior problems (like – Defiance , Aggression , Impulsive tendencies , Compulsive tendencies, Irritability) after hitting your head, you may actually have injured your brain even if you didn’t get diagnosed with a concussion. And this is a big contributor to cognitive decline and poor brain performance. Because remember, your brain is a very delicate organ, it needs to be cared for and protected so it will continue to be optimal as you age xo
Recognizing cognitive decline (AKA mild cognitive impairment MCI) –
Issues associated with poor brain health are listed in the acronym BRIGHT MINDS which makes it simple to remember them:
B – Blood Flow
R – Retirement/Aging (when one decides to stop learning)
I – Inflammation
G – Genetics
H – Head Trauma
T – Toxins
M – Mental Health
I – Immunity/Infection Issues
N – Neurohormone Deficiencies
D – Diabesity
S – Sleep Issues
Being aware of these issues can help one be more aware of their daily lifestyle practices and help implement the tools set out in this Brain guide.
Symptoms of poor brain health or cognitive decline or MCI are;
You forget things more often.
- You forget important events such as appointments or social engagements.
- You lose your train of thought or the thread of conversations, books or movies.
- You feel increasingly overwhelmed by making decisions, planning steps to accomplish a task or interpreting instructions.
- You start to have trouble finding your way around familiar environments.
- You become more impulsive or show increasingly poor judgment.
- Your family and friends notice any of these changes.
- Irritability and aggression
Along with brain injuries, The MAYO clinic lists the following as risk factors in cognitive decline;
- Increasing age
- Having a specific form of a gene known as APOE-e4, also linked to Alzheimer’s disease — though having the gene doesn’t guarantee that you’ll experience cognitive decline
- High blood pressure
- Elevated cholesterol
- Lack of physical exercise
- Infrequent participation in mentally or socially stimulating activities
In all – taking care of your brain health can help you live an optimal, more productive, happier, healthier, longer life. Now that we know all of the above – what to watch out for and avoid —- what can we do to start optimizing our brain?
So your brain is about 2% of your body weight. It uses 20-30% of your daily caloric expenditure. This means the breakfast you had today – about 1/3 of that went to feed your brain. Your brain uses a lot of energy to run well – more than any other organ in your entire body. But where does it get this energy? Well your body makes it through the food and fluids you consume and movement you do. Diet and exercise are key players in optimizing your brain health.
If you were building your dream house you would use high end quality materials and your brain is no different. It requires specific nutrient dense foods to create the highest functioning connections in your brain.
Upgrade your brain with food –
You need a brain healthy focused diet. What does that mean? You are what you eat. What you eat affects your brain and body, so you want foods that are rich in antioxidants, good fats, vitamins, and minerals. These 10 foods below in the PDF I created for my talk on brain health at The Mount Royal University Calgary, will protect your brain and give you the energy and vitality you need to overcome mental fog and fatigue.
TASK: Save the PDF and podcast to your phone for a handy resource.
If you would rather listen – here is the link I did for a podcast in January 2018 🙂
Did you know?
About 60% of the solid weight of your brain is FAT—yes, fat. It’s a scientifically proven fact: Your brain and your body NEED healthy cholesterol and fatty acids to function optimally.
High cholesterol is obviously bad for the brain and body, yet low cholesterol has been associated with homicide, suicide and severe depression. To be healthy, you need to get enough of the right types of fats daily.
FAT IS KEY
Fat plays an important structural role in your brain cell membranes. In fact, the essential fatty acid DHA makes up a full quarter of all brain fat, and it’s the brain’s preferred fat for building membranes.
YOUR BRAIN, DHA & FAT
When your brain doesn’t get adequate amounts of DHA through the diet, it’s forced to use inferior fats, such as trans fats. Brain cell membranes become more rigid with these inferior fats, which can slow information processing and overall brain function.
• Healthy young adults whose diets were low in DHA found that supplementation helped support healthy memory and reaction time.
• DHA also benefits seniors experiencing mild memory problems associated with aging. After one year, elderly subjects taking a DHA-concentrated fish oil supplement showed significant improvements in short-term and working memory compared to those taking placebo.
• And memory is just one aspect of cognitive function that Omega-3 supplementation supports: A meta-analysis of 10 randomized controlled trials found that it helps maintain an ideal attention span and quick processing speed too!
BUT LET’S NOT FORGET ABOUT EPA:
• Although it doesn’t play the structural role that DHA does, it helps support mood and emotional balance.
• It’s thought that EPA may also support a healthy response to inflammation in the brain, by helping to maintain healthy metabolic pathways.
• In this regard, EPA appears to be more effective than DHA for mood support.
• Omega-3 supplementation has also been found effective in people who are prone to mood swings and supports a healthy response to occasional, everyday stress.
So we are looking at good fats like;
- A good Krill oil
- Algae oil
- A good cod liver oil
- Evening primrose oil taken in the evening can be great for women (and their hormones too)
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Macadamia, Pecans and Walnuts
- Coconut oil
- Wild Alaskan salmon
- Grass fed and wild meats
- Grass fed butter or Ghee
- MCT oil or Medium chain tryglycerides
TASK: Aim to add in 2-3 good fats into your diet each day.
Next we look at Polyphenol’s – these keep your brain young. These are a form of antioxidant that neutralize free radicals and prevent them from doing damage. Lower inflammation, which boosts blood flow to your brain, providing it with the oxygen to make more energy. Increases blood flow, which gives you stable energy and focus. Polyphenol’s also help you make more BDNF (Brain-derived neurotrophic factor), a protein dubbed “Miracle-Gro for the brain” that causes you to build new brain cells.
Foods high is polyphenol’s include;
- Dark leafy greens
- Organic berries – especially blueberries
- Dark or Raw chocolate
- Red wine – 1 to 2 glasses twice a week is good
- Green tea
- Red cabbage
Most polyphenol’s are fat-soluble, so be sure you get them with a good dose of quality fat. Most foods that are associated with good brain health are yummy and combined make delicious meals xo
TASK: Aim to add in 3-4 servings of polyphenols into your diet each day.
Upgrade your brain with movement –
Movement and or exercise have been show to be essential for good brain health. Movement is literally the fountain of youth because it boosts blood flow to the brain, plus it increases chemicals that are important for learning and memory and stimulating the growth of new brain cells. Thirty minutes 3 or 4 times a week is all you need. If you don’t know what to do, walk fast, like you’re late to be somewhere. Movement also improves insulin resistance, creates new mitochondria (energy producers in your cells), slows down cognitive related disease, and improves myelin production (Myelin is a white-colored sheath made of mostly fat and cholesterol that wraps around a nerve cell. Myelin’s main function is to insulate neurons, protect axons, and direct the nerve’s impulse to where it’s supposed to go.).
Studies that assessed the effects of exercise on memory point to myelin as the reason for improvements. Exercise increased volume and thickness of myelin and at the same time reducing myelin loss, which resulted in memory improvements and the ability of the body to respond to the brains commands or signals.
If you’re prone to anxiety and depression, exercise is one of the best natural treatments that exists—and it’s free! Exercise activates the same pathways in the brain as morphine and increases the release of endorphins, your natural feel-good neurotransmitters!
A depression study compared the benefits of exercise to those of the prescription drug, Zoloft. After 12 weeks, the exercise proved equally effective as Zoloft in curbing depression. And after 10 months, exercise surpassed the effects of the drug… with ZERO negative side effects! Exercise is not only a fountain of youth but also the closest thing to a happy pill that you will ever find!
According to research done at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, individuals with weaker muscles appear to have a higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease and declines in cognitive function over time. Those at the 90th percentile of muscle strength had about a 61 percent reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease compared with those in the 10th percentile.
Overall, the data showed that greater muscle strength is associated with a decreased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment.
Some of the best exercises for brain health are – Walking, Yoga, Pilates, Hiking and Weigh lifting. Lift weights 30 minutes, twice a week. The stronger you are as you age, the less likely you are to get Alzheimer’s disease. Weightlifting also increases your metabolism and hormone levels such as testosterone and human growth hormone. Committing to regular exercise has been shown to increase the function of a parts of the brain from 4% to 45%!
Physical exercise enhances and protects your brain. It is perhaps the single most important thing you can do to keep your neurons healthy over time. Exercise exerts a protective effect on neurons that lasts about 3 days. – Dr Daniel Amen
TASK: Try to do a 30 minute walk 5 days a week or a 60 minute walk 3 days a week.
Wow! That’s a lot of information!
So I encourage you to read this module over and over again. Start to integrate the brain optimizing foods and movements into your daily life IMMEDIATELY. And be aware of your surrounds in aims to protect your head and brain from bangs, injury or trauma.
Don’t forget to post any questions in The Brain guide forum on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/106697543491766/ where I will respond. Good luck and here’s to optimized long lasting brain health xo
Your Model Coach,