The hunt is on for brain health champions.
They come in all sizes and ages, and are recognized by their commitment to brain health, that is, living the six Brain Commandments (Eat Right, Work Out, Chill Out, Hang Out, Challenge Yourself, Find Your Purpose) and inspiring others to do the same.
The champions, which are being recognized on the website www.Brainupfl.org, are part of a unique brain health initiative—Brain Up! —launched this year by the Alzheimer’s Association Central and North Florida Chapter with grant support from the Winter Park Health Foundation.
The goal is “to promote public understanding of brain health; raise awareness of how important it is to become brain healthy, and: inspire people of all ages and brain abilities to engage in and commit to a brain-healthy lifestyle.”
The “all ages” part is key, because the care and feeding of the young brain can have repercussions far down the road, and because it is never too early or too late to begin caring for the brain.
While it once was believed the brain was static and brain deterioration was a natural part of aging, an explosion in brain research in recent years has revealed the brain continues to grow and develop throughout life in response to learning and new activities.
This is important because while you can’t change genetics, there is much that can be done through healthy habits and environment to insure a healthier brain now and in the future, regardless of your age.
Brain disease is a national health care issue, but “we’ve moved beyond the belief that brain decline is inevitable”, said Beverly Engel, Program Coordinator, Alzheimer’s Association, Central and North Florida Chapter. “We want to teach the community how to be mentally fit throughout life.”
Where do you begin?
Ms. Engel hopes people will start with the initiative’s new website, www.BrainupFL.org, which went live in April 2013. At www.Brainupfl.org, adults and youth can read about the latest in brain research—including a story detailing the healthy impact of playing a musical instrument– as well as the basics of how the brain functions.
The website also features the Six Brain Commandments of good brain health—Eat Right, Work Out, Chill Out, Hang Out, Challenge Yourself, Find Your Purpose–as well as brain games to use for mental exercise.
Brain health champions of all ages also will be profiled on the website. These are people who follow the Brain Commandments in their own lives and inspire those around them to do the same. There is a place on the website to make nominations. Students can nominate friends, parents or grandparents, even teachers. Likewise, adults can nominate anyone they deem a living example of brain health. Any and all ideas are welcome.
To inspire those who visit the website to join the cause, readers are asked to sign the “Brainifesto,” a statement of commitment to take brain health seriously.
Building on the website, as well as Brain Up! presence on Facebook and Twitter, Ms. Engel said in the near future the initiative also will include free brain health seminars on a wide variety of brain health topics to be offered throughout the community in schools, businesses, community clubs and faith communities.
In the meantime, all individuals can strive to become brain health champions by paying attention to exercise, nutrition, activity, mental challenges, managing stress and even sleep, because all have an impact on mental health.