July 16, 2024

Exercise improves body organ functions.
For the brain, good cognitive health helps us live an independent and active life. Several studies have shown that physical activity improves memory, analysis and decision-making.
How does exercise help?
Exercise promotes angiogenesis, or the process in which new blood vessels are formed from the existing blood vessels or vasculature of a body organ. With the formation of new blood vessels, there is an increase in the perfusion or blood flow to the brain.
The increased blood flow brings more oxygen and glucose to the brain. These two substances are the main substrates that the brain needs in order to function well.
Increased blood flow to the brain also enhances neural plasticity (also called neuroplasticity or brain plasticity). This is the ability of the nervous system to change its activity in response to internal or external stimuli.
The brain can reorganize its structure, functions or connections. There is improved development of new synaptic connections and neuronal networks. These interconnections of neuronal processes helps improve brain capacity to learn. Angiogenesis happens throughout life, even in old age.
The beneficial effects of exercise can be partly explained by the natural or physiologic biochemical changes that take place in the body when there is increased physical activity. These molecules are formed during exercise: VEGF, IGF-1and BNDF. VEGF or vascular endothelial growth factor enhances blood vessel growth.
IGF-1 or insulin-like growth factor-1 is a small protein that enters the so-called blood-brain barrier and helps improve brain function. It has been called the factor that links body fitness with brain fitness. It is considered a key factor in the formation of new brain cells in adults.
The level of BNDF or brain-derived growth factor in the blood also increases during exercise. It causes proliferation of neurons or nerve cells.
Exercise has also been shown to increase muscle angiogenesis. Metabolites secreted from muscle fibers or myofibers during exercise can potentiate the effect of VEGF or directly contribute to the growth of blood vessels. For example, the substance lactate is secreted by muscle fibers during intense exercise. Lactate renders cells in the blood vessel walls more responsive to VEGF. It has been shown in studies that increasing lactate levels near ischemic muscles improves their revascularization.

Aside from exercise, what are other measures that can improve cognitive function?
Socialization. Interaction with other people. Not social media especially its excessive use.
The Internet can help us be well informed but spending too much time on social media harms the brain.
Learn new skills like painting, cooking new dish. Indulging in new hobbies. Organizing old and new pictures helps one preserve and enjoy memories.
Seek medical help for conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity.
Seek consult for anxiety and depression. Avoid overthinking.
Strive to have good sleep hygiene and manage any sleep problems. If with sleep apnea, consult a sleep specialist.
Healthy diet that includes fruits and vegetables. Vitamin supplements – not in excessive doses, can help. Vitamin B12, cobalamin has been shown to induce production of substances that promote angiogenesis. It also reduces the levels of harmful homocysteine in the blood
Avoid alcohol and cigarettes.
Engage in activities that involve problem solving like puzzles or word games.

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