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10 Easy Ways to Keep Your Brain Sharp

Thursday, 04 February 2010 08:43 AM

Saving your memory as you age doesn't just involve your brain; healthy choices in all areas of your life will keep your brain — and your body — in tip-top form. Follow these 10 easy tips to keep your brain sharp now and later.

1. Exercise your body. Two newly released studies found that regular aerobic exercise, including brisk walking, swimming, and yoga in mid-life not only forestalls memory problems that often come with aging, but can actually improve the brain function of adults with mild cognitive impairment. Six months of 45 to 60 minutes of exercise four days a week did the trick.

2. Exercise your mind. An active brain continues to produce new connections between nerve cells. Play Scrabble, learn a foreign language, do crossword puzzles, read, or learn a new hobby — all will stretch your brain power.

3. Follow a healthy diet. A meal plan low in saturated fats and rich in colorful fruits and veggies will not only keep your brain sharp and your body slim, but will also help protect you from heart disease and cancer.

4. Don't smoke. Smokers have twice the risk of developing Alzheimer's, says the Mayo Clinic. Even if you've smoked for years, stopping now can reduce your risk of memory problems.

5. Drink in moderation. Researchers at Wellesley College in Massachusetts found that low to moderate amounts of alcohol can help protect against cardiovascular disease, but heavy drinking — more than 14 drinks each week — shrinks brains.

6. Manage your stress. Chill out. When you are stressed, your brain releases damaging hormones. The Mayo Clinic advises looking for solutions such as simplifying your life and getting exercise.

7. Get enough sleep. Good, restful sleep allows your brain to process information, allowing you to think more creatively and have a better long-term memory. The National Sleep Foundation says adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night.

8. Include antioxidants in your diet. According to the AARP, a series of studies showed that a diet rich in antioxidants (which include vitamins C and E and beta carotene) prevented or slowed age-related declines in learning. Also, a study from Tufts University found that blueberries improved short-term memory in animals.

9. Fortify your diet with omega-3 fatty acids. Studies show that omega-3s help maintain brain function throughout life and may protect brains from the ravages of aging. Find these brain-boosting fats in fatty fish such as tuna, sardines, mackerel, and herring.

10. Socialize. Being with other people and talking with them can improve your memory and sharpen your thinking skills. Oscar Ybarra, a psychologist at the University of Michigan found that spending only 10 minutes talking to another person improved memory and was as effective as other mental exercises, such as crossword puzzles.

© HealthDay

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Saving your memory as you age doesn't just involve your brain; healthy choices in all areas of your life will keep your brain — and your body — in tip-top form.
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Thursday, 04 February 2010 08:43 AM
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