Take Care of Your Brain

"This is your brain." (Visual of an egg). "This is your brain on drugs." (Visual of an egg frying.)

Do you remember that ad? How many times did you imitate it? I just went on YouTube to try to find it and there are tons of spinoffs. The original ad must have been brilliant, because it made an indelible impression on our culture. Eat your hearts out, Mad Men.

Our brains are complex instruments, and drugs are only one of the many things that put it at risk. The brain is really very sensitive, and if we want our brains to serve us well throughout the long lives we're told we can expect, it would be, er, smart to pay attention to this crucial part of our anatomy.

I picked up a book titled A Better Brain at Any Age to try to find out more about my personal command center, and it has the clearest explanation of brain function I've ever stumbled across. I remember learning from geeky Ms. Urich in 10th grade that there were essentially three sections: cerebrum, cerebellum and medulla. Is that right? There was also a corpus callosum somewhere in there. Scientists seem to have a better understanding now than when I was in high school.

As author Sondra Kornblatt explains, we now recognize the four sections as cerebellum, lobes, limbic and cingulate gyrus (huh?). The latter is the midbrain and directs our responses to others, so it's definitely pretty crucial. But the truth is, all the sections are crucial. And despite what you may have been taught, depending on how long ago you were in school, the sections don't function independently. Our brains are holistic! They are all involved to some extent in all the functions.

I tried a few of Kornblatt's suggestions for brain stimulation to help me fall asleep, so I could get through a day on what threatened to be an insufficient amount of rest. I pulled my ears all the way around. I scratched above the top of my spine. I rolled my eyes in circles. I put my thumbs on my temples and pulled my fingers against my scalp all the way around. And then I did a light massage all over my head. I'd been to the gym so I knew my blood was circulating pretty well, and Essential Fatty Acids are a supplement staple. I did mentally demanding work yesterday, so I knew I was covered on that front. I was now thoroughly worn out and slept like a log. Taking care of this brain properly is a lot of work!

According to the Franklin Institute, someone in the U.S. suffers a traumatic brain injury every 15 seconds, occurring more frequently than breast cancer or AIDS. Every year, 50,000 people die and 80,000 are disabled because of traumatic brain injuries. So, if you want to take care of your brain, all those things mentioned above are only secondary, because you have to have an intact brain in order to care for it.

With that in mind, remember to:

  • Wear a helmet when you ride a bicycle or motorcycle.
  • Drive a car with side-curtain airbags.
  • If you play soccer, don't go for headers, no matter what your coach says.
  • Take antioxidant supplements and avoid paint, mercury (tuna!), melamine (fish from China) and harmful chemicals.
  • If you play a sport, wear a helmet.
  • If you ski or snowboard, stay away from trees!

Remember, it won't be any fun to live to 100 if your brain is a fried egg.

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