The Flourish As You Age series of podcasts focuses on mind management, but I wanted to take one episode to give you a quick review the Behavioral Roots of Brain Health. A healthy brain is the foundation for a well-functioning mind. Our minds work better when they are supported by body and brains that are healthy, robust and resilient.
In this podcast, I'll review the "risk management" approach to brain health - minimize risk factors and optimize protective factors.
And, I'll explain what we call, The 4-C's guidelines for effective brain health interventions.
The 4-Cs are:
The eight Behavioral Roots are:
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MINDRAMP'S BEHAVIORAL ROOTS OF BRAIN HEALTH
Hi. I’m Michael C. Patterson and this is the Flourish as You Age podcast that’s investigating how we can ramp up our quality of life as we age. In the previous episode I introduced the term “Qualongevity,” which means living a long life filled with quality of life. And, I suggested that to achieve Qualongevity we needed to have a healthy brain and a well-managed mind
The Flourishing series of podcasts will focus on mind management but I wanted to take one episode to give you a quick review the Behavioral Roots of Brain Health. A healthy brain is the foundation for a well functioning mind. Our minds work better when they are supported by body and brains that are healthy, robust and resilient.
There’s a vast amount of information about how to keep our brains healthy and I have been collecting this information for two decades. The sheer volume of the data can be confusing and overwhelming, so we needed to devise a system of sorting and categorizing the huge amount of data. So, what we do is organize the research around eight core areas, what we call the Behavioral Roots of Brain Health. I want to give you a quick overview of the eight behavioral areas.
But first, let me tell you how they work together to keep our brains healthy. We subscribe to what is called a risk management approach. Each other eight areas can be understood in terms of risks and protections. Take physical exercise: not doing any movement, or injuring yourself are risk factors. They contribute to cognitive decline. Conversely, doing exercise and protecting yourself from injury are protective factors. So the core strategy is simple. Stop engaging in risky behaviors. At the same time, do more of the behaviors that are protective.
Next, we developed a conceptual frame for understanding how to get the greatest benefit from the Behavioral Roots. We call it the Rule of the Four C’s (that is the letter C, not the ocean sea).
The four C’s are:
In brief, brain health programs are most effective when they target the root causes of cognitive decline and damage to the brain. If you just target the symptoms, without addressing the root causes, you are just kicking the can down the road.
The second C is combinatorial. The point is that all of the eight Behavioral Roots need to working well. They have a synergistic relationship to one another. If you aren’t sleeping well, for example, you may not have the energy to get the exercise you need. You need to work on all of the eight behavioral roots.
Customized. Each brain is different. Each life is played out in unique environments and unique cultures. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to brain health. You have to figure out what your body and brain needs and figure out which protective behaviors are going to work for you.
The final C is Continual. Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes. You have to develop behavioral routines that you do for the rest of your life. Doing one week of hard physical activity and sitting on the couch for the rest of your life won’t hack it.
So, I’ll talk about each of the Behavioral Roots of Brain Health individually, but remember the Rule of the 4 C’s. You have to focus on interventions that address the root causes of the problem. They must be done in combination with each other. You have to figure out what approaches work for you and you have to keep doing them.
The eight behavioral roots of brain health should be no surprise to you. They are:
Very quickly, let me give you some advice on each of the behavioral roots.
PHYSICAL EXERCISE & MOVEMENT
The important thing is that you need to keep moving, using your muscles, stimulating your bones, stretching your tendons. Use it or lose it.
More specifically, We focus on aerobic exercise, strength training, stretching, balance and posture.
Look for mental activities that are novel, challenging, meaningful, complex and creative.
Human beings are social animals. We need each other. Engage in more nurturing relationships and avoid abusive and toxic relationships.
We are very sensitive to social hierarchies and get stressed when we feel we our status is diminished and are devastated when we feel ostracized.
Some stress is good for us. Acute, short-term stress on the one hand helps us to avoid dangers. It also motivates us to make necessary changes.
Stress becomes dangerous and toxic to the brain when it is chronic and unrelieved. Chronic stress keeps body and brain in a constant state of fight-or-flight. Learn how to avoid or diminish chronic stress.
GOOD DIET AND NUTRITION
You are what you eat. Eat real food, not processed food-like products. Eat a plan based diet with lots of fruits and vegetables.
Try to eat organic foods and avoid meats that are full of antibiotics. Savor your food. Eat slowly and eat less. Drink alcohol in moderation.
You need to get 6-8 hours of sleep that includes enough REM sleep and deep sleep. Go to bed and rise at the same time every night. Develop good sleep habits. Get treatment for sleep problems like chronic insomnia and sleep apnea.
GOOD MEDICAL CARE
This is obvious, but you need to take care of you physical health. Get regular check ups. Take the recommended vaccines and medication. Listen to your doctor’s advice. Get second opinions. Use one pharmacist to make sure your medications interact properly with one another. Keep your teeth healthy. Wear hearing aids if you need them.
Our environments have a big impact on how we feel, our general health and our sense of wellbeing. In broad terms, impoverished environments - environments that are dangerous, toxic or cultural wastelands - are bad for your brain. Enriched environments - nature, safety, cultural stimulation and so on - are good for your brain.
It is much easier to manage our mental states if our brains and bodies are healthy, much harder if we are struggling with disease, injury or debility. By the way, you can find a one-page summary of risk and protective factors associated with the eight behavioral roots of brain health on our website at www.mindramp.org.