Friday, January 15, 2010

Easy Ways to Boost Your Brainpower

I saw an article in Prevention Magazine that gave some helpful tips on ways to keep your mind young and spry. Around the time we hit 30, our brains begin a slow, steady downward trajectory, or so they say. According to new reports, you can counteract these age-related changes with simple activities. The article offered 10 easy ways to “keep your brain quick, sharp, and bristling with youthful vigor.” Sounds like something we could all benefit from! I’m going to focus on just five of these, but you can see the entire list by visiting this website.

Grilled Mahi with Key Lime
Eat Fish!
This is my personal favorite. Fish that is packed with omega-3 fatty acids is great for a healthy mind. About 40% of the fatty acids in brain cell membranes are DHA, one of the main omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil. Experts believe it’s probably necessary for transmitting signals between brain cells.  In a 2006 study, researchers at Tufts University found that people who ate fish 3 times a week and had the highest levels of DHA in their blood slashed their risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 39%. Eat it at least twice a week for a healthy mind and heart!

Choose Crunchy Snacks

Florida Celery
Snacking on celery and green bell peppers may help to keep your mind sharp. Luteolin, a plant compound abundant in these two green veggies, can prevent inflammation in the brain linked with aging and diseases such as Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis, according to researchers at the University of Illinois. Scientists studied the luteolin’s effect on human brain cells in a test tube and on mice and in both cases found that it decreased inflammation.  You can try dipping celery and green bell pepper slices in hummus, or chop and mix with fish, herbs (like parsley or oregano,) and a dollop of plain yogurt for a healthy salad.
Play on the Internet
When you surf the net, you engage key centers in your brain that control decision making and complex reasoning. And these few clicks have actually been said to be more mentally stimulating than reading, according to UCLA scientists. MRI results showed almost  three times more brain activity in people who regularly performed internet searches than in first-timers, suggesting that repeated “Googling “can be a great way to build cognitive strength over time.  The good news is that regardless of how frivolous your searching seems, the benefits to your brain are the same.
Exercise Outside

Photo Courtesy of Flickr
Aerobic exercise boosts not only speed and sharpness of thought but also the volume of brain tissue. You can start easy and aim for as little as 50 minutes of brisk walking 3 times a week. That amount of exercise was found to have this brain-expanding effect. For an added boost, walk outside. University of Michigan researchers found that volunteers whose course took them through a tree-filled setting performed 20% better on memory and attention tests than those who walked downtown.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
To keep your mind youthful, register a healthy weight on the scale. In a recent UCLA study, overweight people had 4% less brain tissue than normal-weight adults — which is the equivalent of their minds aging 8 years. One possible cause was found to be a high-calorie or high-fat diet, which can clog arteries in the brain, restrict blood flow, and cause cells to shrink.