Brain health is today’s hottest topic. Here are the top 10 things everyone should know about improving brain health – Some might surprise you!
Take a Walk
Get off the couch and onto your feet! Studies have shown that regular aerobic exercise (the kind where you can’t keep up a conversation) boosts daily intellectual performance and significantly lowers the risk for dementia.
Lose that Spare Tire
Studies have shown that maintaining a healthy weight with a low ratio of “belly fat” can significantly lower the risk for a memory disorder. Stick to a healthy, well-balanced diet, maintain an appropriate weight and balance your intake of alcohol and caffeine.
Follow Doctor’s Orders
Staying on top of your medical care is key. Managing chronic conditions, such as hypertension or diabetes, can significantly reduce the risk for stroke and dementia. Also, taking care of medical issues such as hearing or vision loss can have tremendous impacts in your ability to learn new information, such as names.
Get Your Zzzzz’s
Choices such as how much sleep we get, how stressed we feel, and what risks we take impact daily memory performance and brain health. Emotional distress can lower everyday ability and may even increase the risk for memory impairment. Get a good night’s sleep, avoid risky behaviors, and don’t ignore emotional upsets.
Play games against the clock. Timed activities force you to pay attention, work fast, and think nimbly – you can’t beat the clock without doing so!
Learn How to Remember
Learn strategies to enhance your daily recall, such as making a connection between something you are learning, like the name “Florence” and something you already know, such as the actress Florence Henderson. Date books and “to-do” lists are essential for keeping track of the things you have to do but that aren’t worth memorizing.
Staying intellectually engaged can significantly lower risks for memory impairment, in some cases by as much as 63%! Intellectual engagement offers opportunities to socialize and supports emotional well-being. Look for activities out of your comfort zone – if you like to read, try a pottery class. Also, look for little ways to “change up” your brain’s routine, such as brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand, or taking a new route to work.
Go Out with the Gang
Staying social can cut your risk for memory impairment in half. Social situations offer great challenges for everyday thinking. Keeping up a conversation forces you to stay focused, think fast and be nimble with your neurons. Look for ways to get out informally with friends, as well as other ways to engage through your community or other resources.
Get a Job
Working or volunteering can improve your daily intellectual performance, as you have the chance to engage both mentally and socially. More complex work settings, such as those that require you to supervise others, have been associated with a reduced risk for dementia. Working or volunteering might also give you a sense of purpose, which researchers at Rush Medical Center in Chicago recently found may also protect from memory impairment.
Perfect the Power of Positive Thinking
If you want to remember more effectively, believe that you can! Self-perception can impact performance. If a baseball player thinks he’ll never hit it a homerun, chances are he never will. Similarly, if you’re convinced that your memory is lousy, it probably will be! Practice the power of positive thinking and believe in your memory.
Cynthia R. Green, Ph.D. is one of America’s foremost memory fitness and brain health experts. Her most recent book is Brainpower Game Plan, Rodale, 2009.
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