Brain Stewardship: Caring for Our Brain

A church or similar organization’s annual stewardship drive inevitably urges us to consider how we manage our time, talent, and treasure. The treasure part includes our brain, that three-pound marvel between our ears, which may be one of the universe’s most magnificent creations. Our brain contains about 100 billion neurons, or brain cells. Although our brain represents only two percent of our weight, twenty percent of the blood pumped by our heart goes directly to the brain providing needed glucose (for energy), nutrients, and oxygen.

In my view, effective brain stewardship means that we should consider doing two things. First, care for our brain and second, use it wisely.

Consider caring for our brain beginning with regular exercise because a healthy body tends to mean a healthy brain. Walking for thirty minutes several times a week is helpful.

Then we have diet. The Mediterranean diet is recommended -- fruits, vegetables, fish, olive oil, etc.

The third and final major way to care for our brain – to practice good stewardship with it – is to enjoy mental stimulation. Consider one of several studies that show a correlation between mental stimulation and brain health.

Starting in 1990, 678 nuns in seven U.S. convents agreed to participate in a groundbreaking study that focused on their brains. The study’s purpose was to determine who gets dementia, especially Alzheimer's disease which is the principal cause of dementia, and why, and what factors affect life expectancy.

The nuns offered an ideal situation for scientific study because they led similar lives, had access to similar health care, ate well, didn’t smoke, hardly drank alcohol, and didn’t experience physical changes caused by pregnancy. The research process included tracking each nun’s writings and other activities beginning in their 20’s and extending to death, conducting annual cognitive and physical tests on each participant, and removing and studying the brain of every deceased study participant.

Profile, Female, Woman, Christian, Nun, Religious

The study reached a decade milestone in 2001 with the publication of Aging with Grace authored by David Snowdon, the principal investigator. He reported that 383 nuns had passed away.

Researchers concluded that early language ability, a positive outlook, and ongoing mental and physical activity (in a nutshell, mental stimulation) correlated with lowered risk of dementia, including Alzheimer’s, and also correlated with longer life.

We are surrounded by mental stimulation opportunities. Take art lessons, start a service project, learn to play an instrument, begin writing that book, take different routes, join an archeological dig, give of yourself, …

In summary, practicing stewardship with our brain includes caring for it. We can do this by, first, regularly exercising. Second, we need to watch what we eat and drink -- go Mediterranean.  Finally, seek lifelong mental stimulation.

Notes:

  • Interested in learning brain basics so that you and others can live and work smarter -- more productive and creative? Then let’s partner on a “Neuroscience 101” presentation (face-to-face or webinar) or workshop. Contact me at stuwalesh@comcast.net  or 219-242-1704.
  • Images source: Pixabay

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