Have you ever considered how fueling your body with healthy habits like physical activity, whole foods and laughter is also fueling your brain?
Your brain is arguably the most important and most complex part of the body. It controls your movements, allows you to feel, and helps you to remember things from 30 minutes ago and 30 years ago. When you’re living with a neurological condition, preserving brain health should rise to the top of your wellness goals.
Simply put, brain health can fit into three pillars: mind, body and spirit.
Being kind to your mind can boost your mood, reduce stress, and improve memory and thinking skills.
Fueling your body with whole foods and physical activity can do much more than keep your cholesterol at bay. Fueling your body can also minimize symptoms, help you move more independently, increase your voice volume, improve balance and decrease fatigue.
Sometimes what your brain needs most is a spiritual boost. Engaging in activities that bring you joy can reduce symptoms, decrease risk for depression, reduce anxiety and stress, and improve your overall mood.
Neurologic conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), and stroke carry distinct symptoms. But these conditions also put you at risk for depression, falls, memory issues, and more. While medicine and other prescribed treatments help to manage these conditions – neurologists and primary care doctors also “prescribe” wellness recommendations for your mind, body and spirit.
“At OhioHealth we believe that neuroscience care goes beyond medical treatment,” says David Hinkle, MD, OhioHealth movement disorders specialist. “With our Parkinson’s disease patients, our first approach is to get them enrolled in physical therapy and exercise programs – often before we consider medication.”
Research shows that physical activity, exercise, healthy diets and nutrition, social interaction and sleep and are critical to neurologic patients and can significantly strengthen brain health. “Exercise has the power to improve brain cell communication or neuroplasticity,” says Hinkle.
Below you’ll find the three pillars of brain health and ways you can maintain a healthy brain while managing your neurologic condition.
Caring for Your Mind
- Think positively: Try keeping a gratitude journal. Write and share things you are grateful for, on the good days and the tough days, and share them with someone you love.
- Sleep and rest well: Is your body getting the right amount of rest? Maybe you have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or you’re sleeping too much? Track your sleep habits and take them to your next appointment with your neurologist or primary care doctor. Your doctor may prescribe a sleep aid, adjust your medication schedule, or recommend some lifestyle changes. Read our tips for a better night’s sleep for more ideas.
- Exercise your brain: Daily cognitive stimulation can keep your brain firing. Opt for reading a book instead of watching the television, listen to a podcast or attend an educational seminar.
Caring for Your Body
- Get moving – daily: Your physical activity abilities will change year by year and even day by day. But being aware of your current fitness level and taking advantage of some physical activity is all that matters. Find ways to incorporate exercise or physical activity as part of your daily routine. You may start with daily chores such as folding laundry or sweeping the house. Then move on to walking the dog, walking a mile, or training for a 5K.
- Exercise your body: If you’re able to take it one step further, get into an exercise routine – perhaps even with others like you. “Exercise is a way to help people to get as close to their “normal” as they can while still considering their ability to move, think, interact with people and do things that they used to do,” Hinkle says. Consider enrolling in an exercise program that focuses on symptoms, such as the Parkinson’s disease focused program OhioHealth Delay the Disease.
- Eat better for your brain: Choose vegetables, fruits, nuts, fish, chicken and eggs.
Caring for Your Spirit
- Get out of the house: The most straightforward way to boost your spirit is to get out and enjoy some social interaction. Consider joining a book club, starting a hobby, or just getting lunch with friends to recall old memories. You may also consider joining an OhioHealth class, support group or event. “Wellness is often best achieved in a social environment,” Hinkle says. “You’re interacting with others, you’re having fun, and you’re re-establishing a sense of control.”
- Give mindfulness a try: Meditation may be as robust as your exercise and your medication. It can help combat feelings of isolation and reduce stress.
- Try a yoga class: OhioHealth offers free neuro yoga classes specifically designed for adults with neurologic conditions.
Want to learn more about caring for your brain? Check out our Train Your Brain blog series.