Using Your Brain To Keep It Healthy

Yu Shing Ting
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Friday - January 11, 2012
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As you make your New Year’s resolutions, consider adding this: To take better care of your brain.

Dr. Thomas Harding, a forensic neuropsychologist and brain rehabilitation specialist, will conduct free workshops on “Preventing Dementia: The Importance of Brain Stimulation and Other Key Factors” at 10:30 a.m. Jan. 14 at Aina Haina Public Library and Jan. 28 at Kapolei Public Library.

According to Harding, there are four basic things people have to do to prevent dementia:

* Stimulate the brain with brain games that keep memory circuits active. His favorite is a card game called Ace to King (go to to learn how to play).

* Feed the brain with proper nutrition. “Think of a Mediterranean diet,” he says. “Lots of vegetables and fruits, and also fish and perhaps chicken. Eat very little beef because of the saturated fat. And blueberries are good for brain plasticity.”

* Get enough physical exercise and rest. Cardiovascular exercise increases blood flow to your brain and that keeps the brain healthy.

* Avoid dementia risk factors. “A healthy heart equals a healthy brain,” says Harding. “If you have high cholesterol, you’re clogging you heart arteries, but you’re also clogging your blood vessels and capillaries to the brain. Other risk factors are hypertension, so if you have high blood pressure, and diabetes. You also can drink yourself into dementia, so avoid abusing alcohol or drugs. A lot of these risk factors are modifiable by our habits and behavior, and then the one risk factor that we can’t do anything about is age.”

Some other interesting brain facts from Harding:

* The human brain weighs about 3 pounds and we have about 100 billion brain cells.

* The size of your head does not equate to the size of your brain, so no, having a big head does not mean you have a big brain.

* Education matters. “Think of your brain as a bank account: When you put money in it, you have more to withdraw from,” explains Harding. “So people with a college education are less likely to get dementia than someone with a sixth-grade education.”

* The brain has its limitations. “A common limitation is the number of digits that the average human is supposed to be able to remember, which is seven,” explains Harding. “That’s why phone numbers are seven digits. For someone like the character in the movie Rain Man, who is a savant, his brain is wired differently from ours. He could remember a phone book, but that’s not normal. There are things you can do to help increase the health of your brain, but if you’re trying to figure out how to memorize an encyclopedia, well, you don’t need to memorize an encyclopedia. That’s what it’s there for, for reference because you don’t really need to fill your brain with that kind of stuff.

“What you want to do is to keep your brain healthy so that the memory circuit that you’re supposed to normally have remains healthy.”

For more information on the upcoming workshops, call 3772456 (Aina Haina) or 693-7050 (Kapolei).

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