Many people in the health care industry, especially medical insurance providers, worry about brain decline. Costs associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s can be astronomical. The condition diminishes quality of life, complicates living, creates dangers with cooking and driving, impacts financial decisions and a host of other issues.

A healthy diet that includes vegetables, especially the green ones, fruits, healthy fats, quality protein and complex carbohydrates and sufficient good water is essential for good brain function.

Since the brain is over 50% fat, eating sufficient fat is important, especially since our bodies cannot produce it. Fats have to come from food. Some of the best fat sources are cold-water fish like mackerel, sardines, salmon and anchovies, plus olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, seeds, avocados and flax seed oil.

Cholesterol, which is produced by the liver, is also a necessary fuel for the brain. Unfortunately, anti-cholesterol medication, while helping your heart and circulatory system, could also hasten brain demise. These medications may cause muscle weakness because they affect your body’s ability to produce muscle energy, hence the warning on the label to watch out for muscle weakness as a side effect. Your heart is a big muscle that works 24/7 but other muscles may also be affected.

Children who play musical instruments are more likely to have a bigger corpus callosum, the part of the brain that connects the two hemispheres. From a Chinese medicine point of view, movement of the fingers is associated with creating better energy flow to the various organs of the body, and all organ health is related to brain health. In qigong, an ancient Chinese form of organ exercise, emphasis is placed on improving organ and brain function, thus improving health and longevity.

Weight lifting and strengthening exercise is associated with improving brain function by enhancing neurotransmitter production necessary for communication between various parts of the brain. Strengthening exercise coordinates the signal from the brain to the muscle, making neurotransmitters very important in relaying the messages. It is estimated that 70-80% of neurotransmitters are produced in the digestive tract. What you eat does matter.

Keeping the brain active is key. Stimulate the brain by solving puzzles, reading, learning a new language or learning new movement. The brain continues to make new connections between the cells and learning continually takes place.

Nutrition can vastly influence the function of the brain and the rest of the body. You are never too old to make a body better.

Sheila Yonemoto, P.T., has been a physical therapist for more than 30 years, specializing in integrative manual therapy, utilizing a holistic approach. She can be reached at Yonemoto Physical Therapy, 55 S. Raymond Ave., Suite 100, Alhambra, CA 91801. Sheila also offers a qigong “Chinese energy” exercise class. Your first class is free. Call (626) 576-0591 for more information or visit www.yonemoto.com.

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