Before discussing ways that you can keep your nervous system healthy, it’s probably a good idea to remind you WHY you should keep your nervous system healthy. In many ways, your nervous system—your brain, your spinal cord, and the many nerves and sensory receptors that make up your peripheral nervous system—are similar to a computer network. They form the highway along which literally all data transmitted to and from your brain travels. And just as the cables and fiber-optic lines that make up the Internet need to be periodically maintained to keep them in good working order, your nervous system needs to be maintained so that all the signals that coordinate your body’s various functions flow properly and you stay healthy.
Why your nervous system deserves more attention than you’re probably giving it
Your nervous system contains one of the most important parts of your body, your brain. It allows you to think, to learn, to experience emotions like love, joy, and sadness. Combined with the nerves of your peripheral nervous system and sensory organs such as your eyes, ears, touch and nasal receptors, and taste buds, it allows you to experience the world around you and interact with it. If your nervous system is healthy, it enables you to live a long, healthy, and happy life. But if your nervous system becomes unhealthy – due to injury, disease, or neglect – then your health as a whole can begin to degenerate. What we typically consider “aging,” for example, is a process that often begins with a slowing down of and loss of function in the nervous system.
So obviously it pays to keep your nervous system healthy. But how do you actually go about doing this? Fortunately, there are a number of simple things you can do from day to day to help keep your nervous system functioning properly. Here are a few tips:
- Eat well to keep your brain and nerves healthy. Your brain, spinal cord, and nerves are coated with a layer of fat called myelin, which needs to be properly nourished to stay healthy. One of the things it most requires is a balanced, low-fat diet, with ample quantities of vitamins B6, B12, and folate. Emphasize fresh fruit, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Stay hydrated. What you drink – and how much – is just as important as what you eat. Drink lots of water every day, especially when you exercise. Limit your intake of caffeinated drinks, because they can actually increase dehydration and weaken your nervous system.
- Get sufficient exercise. Regular aerobic exercise—ideally at least 30 minutes a day—can help to keep your nervous system as healthy as much as it helps your heart and lungs.
- Get plenty of rest. One of the most debilitating things for your nervous system is sleep deprivation, especially when experienced over a long period of time. If you are feeling tired during the day a lot and having problems with memory, chances are you need more sleep.
- Stay on top of medical conditions that impair the nervous system. These conditions include high blood pressure, diabetes, arterial or vein disease, etc.
- Avoid alcohol or drugs. Yes, having a glass of wine with dinner has been shown to be good for your heart, but at the same time it’s literally killing brain cells and making your nervous system less healthy. Same thing with recreational drugs, which can impair your cognitive functions for up to two weeks after their use.
- Use it or lose it. Keep your brain healthy by learning new things. Take a language course, or learn a new skill. Play crossword puzzles or Scrabble to keep your brain active and growing.
- Write or draw more using a pen and paper. Interestingly enough, doing this 15 minutes a day is one of the best ways of keeping your nervous system healthy and fine-tuned, because working with a pen on paper requires far more precise brain/motor coordination than typing on a keyboard does.
- Decrease your use of non-prescription medications. Overuse of over-the-counter medications is the single biggest cause of nervous system problems in older adults.
Finally, try to develop a positive attitude about aging. Reject the notion that your strength, flexibility, balance, coordination and cognitive skills “have to” decline badly as you get older. Over the years, researchers and clinicians have learned that our lifestyle habits—things we control—are key factors in how well we age.
As chiropractic physicians, we’re experts in diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal and neurological problems. We also help patients maintain the health of their musculoskeletal and nervous systems through a combination of therapies that promote proper structural alignment of the back, neck and other joints. Regular chiropractic treatment can help prevent many conditions that cause pain and reduced function as we get older. Call or visit our office to learn more!