By Michael C. Patterson
There are both risk and protective factors associated with each of the eight behavioral roots of breain health. As per the advice of the Cherokee Legend, we improve our brain health by starving the risk factors while feeding the protective ones.
PHYSICAL EXERCISE & MOVEMENT
Risks: A sedentary life, sitting, excessive comfort
Sarcopenia, osteoporosis, poor balance, poor circulation & respiration, limited mobility
Protections: An active life, aerobic and strength exercise, stretching, balancing, good posture
Risks: Boredom, illiteracy, negative thinking, mindlessness and closed-mindedness
Poor cognitive skills, limited imagination, limited reserve, brain atrophy
Protections: Mental activities that are: novel, challenging, meaningful and creative.
Risks: Isolation, loneliness, rejection, abuse, absence of support.
Stress, depression, anxiety, vulnerability
Protections: Social skills, engagement, cooperation, friendship, love
Risks: Chronic, unrelieved stress, perceived low status, rumination, anxiety, PTSD,
High blood pressure, hypertension, high cortisol levels
Protections: Breathing, reframing as challenge (hormesis), slow thinking
DIET & NUTRITION
Risks: Starvation or obesity. Processed foods, toxins, excess carbohydrates and sugar
Leaky gut syndrome, insulin resistance, poor metabolism
Protections: Clean water & air, real food, plant-based diet, fiber
SLEEP & MENTAL REST
Risks: Insomnia, sleep deprivation, sleep apnea, low deep and REM sleep
Poor waste removal, poor memory consolidation, fatigue, and cognitive impairment
Protections: 6-8 hours of sleep, on a regular schedule, good sleep hygiene
Risks: Chronic illness, infection and inflammation. Injuries. Over-medication.
Cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and insulin resistance
Protections: Good medical care and management of chronic conditions.
Risks: Pollution, toxins, over-crowding, lack of facilities, lack of green space
Noise, garbage, unsanitary conditions, heavy industry and traffic, mold, disease
Protections: An enriched environment, safety & security, green space.