12 ways to keep your brain healthy. Hello, my friend and welcome to another episode of The Mark Struczewski Podcast, I am so glad you're here. Before we get into the 12 ways to keep your brain healthy today, I want to invite you to get on a free, no obligation strategy call with me. All you have to do to grab this is head on over to my website, MisterProductivity.com. That's Mister all spelled out, m i s t e r, MisterProductivity.com. At the very top of the page, you'll see a banner, just click that banner and get on a free strategy call with me, it's my gift to you.
So we only have one brain, you probably get that and we need to do all we can to take care of our one and only brain. Now this is not a podcast, lest you think it's only for the older people. If you're young, and I used to be young at one time, I'm 57 years young now, but sometimes we think, Oh, we're invincible. But these are things that you can do starting now. Wherever you are, and whatever age you are, to better take care of your one and only brain.
So the first thing I want to talk to you about is mental stimulation. Our brains like to work on complex things, it keeps them active. So, a couple of ways you can do this is you can read or listen to books that stretch you. For example, I recently read a book called Pharma. It's all about the history of the pharmaceutical industry in this country. It was a very long book and it used a lot of big words, I didn't know, that I had to go look up, but it stretched my mind. So read or listen to books that stretch you. Another thing you can do is you can learn a new language or a skill. Right now, I'm trying to learn, desperately trying to learn, French on Duolingo. But you can also learn a new skill, like coding or crocheting or something similar to that. Then we have puzzles, the physical puzzles that you get a big table and you have to put them together. Also crosswords and you can also volunteer or participate in social activities that keep you engaged with other people. A lot of people struggle when they're living alone. You don't have to be old to do this. You may be young and single and you don't interact with people a lot. Well, go volunteer at a local center, and that could help you get a stronger brain.
Number two, physical exercise every day. Now, it's really important that if you're a sedentary person now, that you go check with your health care professional. Just don't start going out and exercising. But after they give you the Okay, consider exercises that will elevate your heart rate a little bit, so you break out into a light sweat. Just 15 to 30 minutes a day can make a huge difference for your brain health. You can run. I've been running at least one mile every day for over 1,900 days in a row. You can walk, swim, lift weights, HIIT, that's what I call high intent interval training, HIIT, you can put your headphones on and dance around the house and remember, breakout into a small sweat. It's really good for the brain.
My mother passed away in June of 2022 due to Alzheimer's. And what they found in Alzheimer's is as we age we tend to be sedentary. And when we're sedentary, the blood vessels in our brain tend to calcify and that's what they think is what causes the beginning stages of dementia and Alzheimer's. But if you exercise, if you stay active, you keep those blood vessels in your brain healthy and you may offset getting dementia or Alzheimer's. Of course there is no guarantees.
Number three, improve your diet. Eat less junk food and more whole foods. Whole foods are foods closer to the source. I had a guest on my show about three years ago and he gave this example which really made me understand it: apples are close to the source, apple sauce is processed. I'm not saying you can't ever go out to eat again. Just make it an exception and make wise choices when you do.
Now if you're in a rush for time and you have to stop by fast food joint, that's okay occasionally. When I say occasionally, I don't mean once a day. Maybe once a week is okay. But a lot of people are eating out for breakfast lunch and dinner and they're having vending machine snacks during the day which is not good. Avoid a high sugar diet. Again, if you want to do it once a week, that's fine. I'm doing Tim Ferriss' slow carb diet, which he writes about extensively in his best selling book, The Four Hour Body. It's six days of low carb and on the seventh day, you can literally eat whatever you want to eat. And that seems to be working for me. So find out what works for you. Maybe you need to talk to your doctor to get more specific information because I'm not a doctor, I'm not a nutritionist, I'm just sharing what I've learned on the internet.
Number four, improve your blood pressure. The number one way to improve your blood pressure is by lowering your weight. And the best way to do that is eat right, exercise, and stay lean, alkright? You don't need to take drugs. If your doctor prescribes drugs, because your blood pressure is out of control, listen to your doctor. Again. I am not a doctor.
Number five, improve your blood sugar. But Mark, how do I improve my blood sugar? Well, this is gonna sound like a broken record. Eat right, exercise and stay lean. Eat right, eat more whole foods, less junk food.
Number six, improve your good cholesterol. How do you do that? Eat right, exercise and stay lean. So if you eat right, exercise and stay lean, you're gonna be pretty good in terms of brain health.
Number seven, if you are a smoker, that means cigarette, that means cigars, that means vaping, consider quitting, because that's not good for your overall health and especially, is not good for your brain health.
Number eight, avoid taking any drugs unless prescribed by your doctor. And one of the things I had with a conversation I had with my father, who was 81 years old and takes a plethora of medications. I said, Dad, why are you taking all these medications? And he said, because the doctor prescribed them. And what I said to him is, That may be true. But you, as the patient, have the right to understand why you're taking these medications. So I hope regardless of your age, if a doctor prescribes something, make sure you, as the patient, as someone who is vested and cares about their health, understands why you are taking the medication. Ask the question. You are allowed to ask the doctor, Hey, why am I taking this medication again? And if they tell you and you don't understand, ask again and again and again until you are 100% clear on why you're taking a medication.
Now let's say you have some body pains, body aches, a headache, or a migraine. Don't reach for the medication right away. You can Google, What foods will naturally take away headaches? I had a headache once and I Googled how to take away headache and I found out almonds take away headache. So I had a bunch of almonds with some water and the headache went away. So don't immediately go for the drugs. See if you can do it more naturally, maybe taking a walk outside in the fresh air will take away the headache a headache is headache a way as well. Not so easy for me to say.
Number nine, avoid or moderately consume alcohol. Drinking has a stronger effect on our bodies as you we age. And experts advise one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. Now, does this mean that you can't go out to the bar occasionally? Or out to the club occasionally, and have more than one drink if you're a woman and two drinks for men? I'm not going to say yes or no. But I'm going to say if you do it occasionally, like not every Friday and Saturday, but maybe once a month, you should be okay. But again, I am not a doctor. And I want you to understand that. Just do things in moderation instead of all the time.
Number ten, prevent falls. Practice balance and strength exercises. Beware, you already know this, but beware that drinking and drugs can affect balance. So one of the best ways you can practice balance and strength exercises is stand on one leg and see how long you can maintain your balance. Or do those sobriety tests in your own home. Walk in a straight line, just get some masking tape and put it on the floor and see how far you can walk. The more you do it, the better you'll get more balanced and more strength exercises. Or maybe walk in a straight line with your eyes closed. It's really important.
Be careful of uneven walking surfaces or cords that you can trip on. Wear shoes or slippers with good soles and avoid walking barefoot or walking on in stocking feet. Because I remember as a little boy, linoleum floors, socks, that was fun back then. But as we age, you could slip.
And I don't know about you, I have had head injuries before. I have gotten hit by a car riding my bike. Fortunately, didn't break any bones. But I did get a concussion out of it. This is years ago. So never assume it's never gonna happen to me, I'm invincible. You're not invincible. If you bike or ski, always wear a helmet. It sounds silly. You may look silly. The first time I got hit by a car, and it wasn't a hit by a car, the person backed out of their driveway, didn't look and I was coming down the road. They just put their car in reverse apparently, and just gunned it. And it happened so quickly, I ran into their car and flipped over the handlebars, hit my head on their car and hit my head on the pavement. That is traumatic. And I think I was, I don't know, 20 years old that happened, like 37 years ago.
Another time I had a traumatic injury was I fell on black ice. This is when I lived up in Rochester, New York. And it snowed overnight, and then it got above 32, so it melted. And then it got below 32 again and snowed again. So I was just going into the factory I was working at and at the time, and I slipped and I went from my feet to my head in like a microsecond. And that was pretty scary because it took them a while to diagnose it. So you never know. That's the point I'm trying to tell you. You never know when you're going to lose your balance and fall and fall on your head. So just be careful. I don't want you to wear a helmet everywhere you go and we're elbow pads and knee pads like a football player or a hockey player. I'm not saying that. I'm just saying be careful. Don't assume the sidewalk is level. Don't assume that the the wooden stairs are stable. Okay? Always err on the side of caution.
Number 11, minimize stress. Hormone secreted when you're under stress have a stronger effect on older brains challenging your ability to recover from emotional upset. So take change slowly and learn ways to cope with anxiety and tension. And again, just because you're in your 20s or your 30s, don't say, Ah, that doesn't bother me. Stress doesn't bother me. Stress bothers everyone. And you need to find a way to cope. Whether you are going to a therapist or you talk to someone at your church, or your synagogue, or your mosque, you need to talk to someone. don't go to the drugs, or the alcohol or something that's gonna harm you or someone else. You need to deal with the stress and minimize it. And one of the best ways to minimize stress is when you feel yourself getting all angry and frustrated just go for a walk. Put your jacket on, if it's cold, go outside, go for a really fast walk. Breathe in through your nose, breathe out through your mouth, and that will lower everything: your blood pressure and your heart rate and you'll feel better too.
And finally, number 12, sleep well. Inadequate sleep is linked to slower thinking and risk of dementia. Seven to nine hours asleep as best but be wary of sleep medications that can make cognitive problems worse. Instead, talk to your doctor about sleep hygiene, that is habits to help your body settle down at bedtime. I highly, highly, highly recommend you go pick up Dr. Matthew Walker's book, Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams. This was the book that told me about the danger of melatonin. We all like to go the melatonin or NyQuil or something like that, to get us to go to sleep. The problem with that is melatonin is just a signal your body sent out to the body that hHey, get ready to go to sleep. To take it is not recommended because you can screw up your circadian rhythm. So, go get Why We Sleep by Dr. Matthew Walker, it is going to tell you so many things about sleep and how to go to sleep and how to stay asleep and how to get good sleep.
One of the things I learned in there is if you can't sleep, the worst thing you can do is toss and turn. You get up and maybe turn on a low wattage light bulb next to your bed. Do not grab your phone or any other electronic. Instead, grab a print book and read until you're tired again. Or maybe go take a warm bath or a shower. Be careful with turning too many lights on. We don't want the body to wake up. Your body will eventually fall asleep. If you are taking drugs, if you're drunk, it's going mess you up for a little bit. But if you're taking good care of yourself, your body will fall asleep. Again, I cannot recommend Why We Sleep by Dr. Matthew Walker's book highly enough, I will put that in the show notes, I highly recommend it, it will fundamentally change the way you approach sleep.
So again, these are 12 ways to have a healthy brain. You only get one brain. So do everything in your power to take care of it.