“I’m a Neurosurgeon, and Here are My Top 5 Health Tips for Brain Health”
18 November 2021
Overwhelmed by the fast-paced metropolitan lifestyle in Hong Kong, we may find it hard to slow down and spare a moment from our packed schedule to care for our body and mind.
Headaches or tiredness may be the warning signals that your body is reaching its limit, and chances are, your way of living is tipping the balance — homeostasis of your body, interfering with your productivity and ability to concentrate.
From time to time, it is important to give yourself a break to rejuvenate both physically and mentally, also to get ready for the challenges ahead.
In this article, Dr. Derek Wong (黃秉康), a neurosurgeon and a member of the Healthy Matters Expert Advisory Board, is going to share with you his top tips to stay healthy by making slight changes in everyday habits, setting the right mood while maintaining a work-life balance.
Tip #1: Set up a healthy eating habit
“Bear in mind what you eat everyday. Besides calories, the fat & cholesterol content also matter. I also take a dose of omega-3 supplement in the morning every day.”
Omega-3 has numerous health benefits, particularly its association with improvements in brain health and mental health. A recent research in 2018 has shown regular omega-3 intake can slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and other age-related mental declines. In addition, omega-3 supplements in the form of EPA are as effective as antidepressants to fight against depression.
Other than supplements, omega-3 can be obtained through dietary intake from fatty fish. Eating fatty fish twice a week supplies you enough omega-3 to meet the recommended intake of minimum 250-500mg per day (for healthy adults). The supplement form is recommended for vegans or people who are not a fan of fatty fish.
Tip #2: Get in shape with a refreshing drink
“It may sound unusual, but I carry my bottle with me everywhere I go. As clichéd as it seems, I always remind my patients to drink sufficient water. Water cleanses our body and flushes away toxins from the internal organs via blood circulation. We get many symptoms, like headache, from dehydration that we ain’t aware of throughout the day”
Water plays an important role in different body processes and takes up 60-70% of our body weight. It is lost constantly in sweating, breathing, urinating, etc. It is essential to keep the body hydrated and replenish the water loss by drinking an abundance of water. Many people thought they drink plenty during the day, forgetting that caffeinated drinks & alcohol may have diuretics effects and actually deplete you from water content in the body.
No matter how busy you are, don’t forget to take a glass of water every now and then — it’s the simplest thing you can do to take better care of your body. Start from drinking 6-8 glasses (1 glass = 250 mL) of water per day, or consider adopting Dr. Wong’s water bottle hack, your body is going to thank you for that.
Tip #3: Start and stick to an exercise routine
“Having a good sweat is very fulfilling. Despite retiring from elite triathlon races, I still have my workout sessions in the morning four times a week before going to the clinic. It helps me set the right mood and prepare for the long day of work. Being more physically active makes me feel that I have become more positive towards different challenges in life.”
Exercise was scientifically proven in 2008 by Cerebral Cortex Oxford Academic Journals to be able to increase the endorphin level in your body. Endorphin is often known to be the driver behind “runner’s high”, it not only boosts your mood after an extensive, intense exercise session, but also acts as a natural painkiller. Needless to say, regular exercise benefits your physical health in multiple ways, preventing different health problems, such as stroke, metabolic syndromes, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, arthritis and even cancers.
If you treat exercise as a compensatory way to offset the extra calories that you have consumed, it will certainly feel like a burden. Rather, give yourself no excuses and get moving whenever you can.
A 2011 study in ISRN Neurol journal reveals that physical exercise can prevent stroke and increase the production of new brain cells. Moreover, poor nutrition, particularly one with too much sugar, fats or processed foods, can be detrimental to brain health.
There are a plethora of exercises to choose from — from more dynamic exercises like basketball, running, dancing, to more quiet options like yoga and meditation — you will definitely find one both manageable and enjoyable for you!
Tip #4: Keep your brain healthy
“The brain is like the body, we have to train it to get it in shape! Sometimes, when I walk back to the clinic, I observe all the people around me. And at night, before I go to bed, I try to recall all the people and details. Then I will try again in one or two days. It’s a fun exercise and it keeps me busy when I commute! Working on the smartphone won’t so such a good trick.’’
A 2011 research confirms that brain cerebral aging is partly governed by genetic factors, but there are many things we can do to slow it down. We don’t necessarily need to practice mental exercise, but a few basic tricks will help get your brain in shape. Having adequate sleep, a balanced diet, regular physical activities, stress management … are just a few examples of everyday actions you can embrace.
Little actions such as reading, playing chess, solving puzzles or even helping your children with their homework… are great workouts for your brain. Traveling, DIY gardening and meeting people are the best ways to stay fit (physically and spiritually)!
Tip #5: Build hobbies and life goals
“As a doctor, my professional goal is always to take care of my patients well. But I also have personal goals such as finishing a marathon within a certain time limit, taking care of my friends… and of myself of course. I find satisfaction and happiness by volunteering in a charity organization in my spare time. I have a habit of writing a list of positive things that happen during the day before sleeping to keep a good mindset. And I almost forgot to mention, I love listening to music every morning, a way start a productive day!’’
Having life goals completes our lives with purposes, keeps us on track, gives us a reason to wake up in the morning and beef up our self-confidence in the long run. We can develop life goals with various lengths of time (short-time, medium-term, long-term) and in various aspects of life (career, finance, personal, health, spiritual and relationship).
Having hobbies is also handy for us to get a boost of dopamine and endorphins, the pleasure hormones.
A 2014 social research further points out that people who participate in volunteering activities have “significantly better physical and mental health” than those who do not. So helping out at a community centre, environmental clean up, or even a voluntary teaching program may be your key to a blissful life!
Last but not the least, enjoy your life to its fullest!
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This article was independently written by Alea and is not sponsored. It is informative only and not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and should never be relied upon for specific advice.