Keys to maintaining good brain health

Your mind is so wonderful. About 100 billion neurons work together to keep you agile and fast in your thinking.

But just like the rest of your body, your brain may not be quite as strong when you’re a little older. Perhaps you find yourself having to write things down, forgetting appointments, or not being able to follow the conversation or event on TV without stress.

Fortunately, it is possible to exercise your mind, too.

The keys to our nervous system are gray and white matter.”

Hermundur Sigmundsson, Professor, Department of Psychology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)

Roughly speaking, gray matter consists of neurons – or neurons – and dendrites, while white matter provides connections between cells (myelinating axons) and contributes to the speed of transmission and distribution of signals.

Three factors contribute to better brain health:

Recent article in the magazine brain science It combines a lot of what we know from previous research into brain health. The researchers went to great lengths to be comprehensive in their theoretical perspective paper and provided 101 references to articles on how to maintain the shape of our gray and white matter.

“Three factors stand out if you want to keep your brain at its best,” says Sigmundsson.

These factors are:

  1. Physical exercise.
  2. to be social.
  3. Having strong interests. Learn new things and never hold back from new challenges.

1. movement

This is perhaps the biggest challenge for many of us. Your body becomes lazy if you sit on your backside too much. Unfortunately, the same goes for the brain as well.

“An active lifestyle helps develop the central nervous system and counteract aging of the brain,” say Sigmundsson and colleagues.

So it is important not to get stuck in your chair. This takes effort, and there is no way around it. If you have a stable job, go to school or when you have finished work, you need to energize yourself, including physically.

2. Relationships

Some of us are happier alone or with a few people, and we know that “hell is other people” – if we translate the phrase of writer and philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre a little loosely. (Although his account was somewhat more complex.) But in this regard, you have to strengthen yourself.

“Relationships with and interactions with others contribute to a number of complex biological factors that can prevent the brain from slowing down,” says Sigmundsson.

Being with other people, for example through conversation or physical contact, supports good brain function.

3. Passion

This last point may have something to do with your personality, but if you’ve read this now, you probably already have the necessary foundation and are probably willing to learn.

“Passion, or a strong interest in something, can be the critical driving factor that leads us to learn new things. Over time, this affects the development and maintenance of our neural networks,” says Sigmundsson.

Stay curious. Don’t give up and let everything run its course the same way all the time. You’ll never be too old to do something you’ve never done before. Perhaps now is the time to learn to play a new instrument.

Either you use it or you lose it

Sigmundsson collaborated with master’s student Benjamin H. Dybendal and Associate Professor Simone Grassini at the University of Stavanger on the comprehensive paper.

Thus their research presents a similar picture of the brain and the body. You have to exercise your brain so that it does not degrade. “Use it or lose it,” as the saying goes.

“Brain development is closely related to lifestyle. Physical exercise, relationships, and emotion help to develop and maintain the basic structures of our brain as we age,” says Sigmundsson.

These three factors therefore offer some keys to maintaining a good quality of life and – hopefully – aging well.


Journal reference:

Hermundur Sigmundsson, Benjamin H. Diependale and Simon Grasini. Movement, relationship, and emotion in physiological and cognitive brain aging. brain science. DOI: 10.3390 / brainsci12091122