Like any other organ, the brain grows and changes throughout our lives. Our brains are made up of two kinds of cells: fat cells and nerve cells (or neurons.) The same things you do to keep your heart cells healthy will keep your brain cells healthy.
A healthy brain is dynamic and adaptive. By keeping your brain healthy you think better, learn more quickly, and recover more completely from injuries like concussions or strokes. A healthy brain may delay the onset of degenerative neurological illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease, depression, schizophrenia, dementia, and anxiety disorders. Good brain health may enhance the effect of medication and therapy for people suffering from serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Healthy brains make more neurons, have ongoing dendritic growth, and the neurons communicate well with each other. These three characteristics comprise neuroplasticity.
There are three categories of things you can do to improve neuroplasticity.
Category 1: 8 Behavioral Practices to Improve Neuroplasticity
- Changing lifestyle habits can seem overwhelming. Most importantly stop smoking and limit alcohol intake to 5 ounces of wine, one beer, or one drink no more than three times a week. Beyond that, implement the list below one step at a time. Engage in aerobic exercise for 30-60 minutes, 4-6 days per week. Hint: If you have a hard time getting started, commit to exercising for one minute. If you’re so tired after one minute that you have to stop, give yourself permission to stop. For most people, the first minute is the hardest: once they get going they feel good enough to continue. Aerobic exercise includes walking, biking, running, swimming; in short, anything that makes you sustain a continuously elevated heart rate. Though exercise is safe for most people, I suggest that you talk to your health care provider before starting an exercise program.
- Do not eat processed sugar. The natural sugars in fruits, vegetables, and unsweetened dairy products are fine. You want to avoid anything with granulated sugar, high fructose corn syrup, honey, maple syrup, or highly concentrated sugar as an ingredient.
- Minimize eating grain products, especially processed wheat. There is some evidence that wheat and sugars increase inflammation throughout the body, including the brain. Minimizing wheat and sugar intake can help you lose weight in addition to improving neuroplasticity. Concentrated sugars and wheat cause a spike in blood sugar that in turn causes a spike in insulin. Studies indicate that high levels of insulin may decrease neuroplasticity. Hint: if you need a snack, grab something high in fiber like fruit or nuts. Fiber decreases the blood sugar spike that sugar alone would give.
- Try to sleep 7-8 hours each night, but no more than that. Hint: If you have trouble sleeping, you can take one 0.5 – 3.0 mg Melatonin pill before bed. At this dose, Melatonin appears to be harmless and is sold without a prescription in supermarkets, pharmacies, and health food stores.
- Take 2,000 units of vitamin D3 per day. Most people at our latitude are vitamin D deficient due to lack of exposure to sunlight. Adding 2,000 units of vitamin D can help nerves function better.
- Take Omega 3 Fatty Acids (Fish Oil) capsules. Start low, but aim for 2,000 mg twice per day. Hint: most capsules have around 1,000 mg. There are two kinds of Omega 3 fatty acids in fish oil. One is called EPA, and the other is DHA. The higher the EPA percentage, the better. Start with one capsule in the morning, and go up to 2,000 mg twice daily over the course of a week. If you get a fishy taste in your mouth or an upset stomach, build up more slowly.
- Fast for 12 hours between dinner and breakfast. In other words, if you finish eating dinner by 7:00 PM, try not to start breakfast before 7:00 AM.
- Fast for 3 hours before going to bed.
Category 2: Genetic Testing
Beginning in 2010, scientists realized that genetic testing could tell your doctor if there are certain proteins or enzymes that are either deficient or too prevalent in your body; if certain medications are likely to work for you or not work in your body, and how rapidly your body metabolizes certain drugs. Collecting genetic material is as simple as rubbing the inside of your cheek with a cotton swab. This information allows your doctor to tailor your medications and doses as precisely as possible for your body. It helps us personalize your treatment to get the fastest and most efficient results.
Category 3: Laboratory Testing
We know there are biomarkers that tell us about your risk for a variety of medical problems. For instance, doctors routinely check cholesterol levels as a way of assessing your risk for heart disease. When your cholesterol is high there are specific interventions which they suggest to reduce cholesterol and, as a result, reduce the risk of heart disease. The same is true for brain disease. Laboratory testing can reveal if you have specific risk factors for brain disease. These factors may make it harder for you to recover from your current illness or put you at risk for other brain diseases in the future. Therefore, the clinicians at Manlove Psychiatric Group may recommend blood tests to determine what your specific risk factors are. This allows us to personalize your treatment.
The testing we do reveals details about the following blood chemistry which can affect your mental health:
- Markers of inflammation
- Levels of minerals and vitamins
- Metabolic factors such as cholesterol and blood sugars
The staff at Manlove Psychiatric Group would like to work with you to make your brain as healthy as possible. By doing this we can treat your current psychiatric problems more effectively and decrease the risk of neurodegenerative psychiatric and neurological problems.
Contact the office
To find out more about Brain Health services, contact Manlove Psychiatric Group located at 636 Saint Anne St. Suite. 100 Rapid City, SD 57701-4694. Manlove Psychiatric Group provides Brain Health services in Rapid City, SD, and its surrounding areas.
Book an appointment by calling (605) 348-8000.