Monday, January 31, 2011

5 Ways to Keep Your Brain in Top Shape

 Exercise supports your brain health the same way it supports your heart health. It improves your blood flow throughout the body, lowers your blood pressure and controls your weight. Increased blood flow means more oxygen and nutrients flooding brain cells to support optimal function.
* Try:
Activities like running, walking, cycling, strength training, dancing, yoga, or Pilates.

Eat for Your Heart… And Your Mind
A heart-healthy diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables, omega-3 fats, and whole grains also support improved cognition. Fruits and veggies are rich in vitamins and minerals, which support healthy brain chemistry. Omega-3 fats also support brain cell structure and function.
* Try: Deep colored fruits and vegetables (fresh or frozen), walnuts, flax seeds, salmon, flax seed oil, and walnut oil.

New Activity
The key word is "new." Learn a new language, take a class or pick up a new instrument. When it comes to brain fitness, it's really a "use it or lose it" approach. Activities that make you think help support new brain cell growth. Whether you’re at home with a DVD or in a classroom setting, novel challenges to your brain help keep you sharp.
* Try: Sudoku, crossword puzzles, word search puzzles, language DVDs, or shopping without a list.

Take a Break
De-stressing yourself can boost brain fitness in several ways. Stress hormones are released in response to mental or biological stress, which can have a negative impact on brain functions, like memory. Sleep deprivation also can affect brain fitness, so get at least 6 to 7 hours nightly. Give your brain a daily rest for 30 to 60 minutes from all the multitasking. Put away the phone, computer, and TV remote and enjoy a little "alone" time. Exercise is also a great stress reliever. In fact, think of "alone” time and exercise time as double-duty brain boosters.
* Try: A daily 30-minute walk without cell phone; at least 6 hours of nightly sleep; counting to 10 and breathing deeply before responding to any stressful situation, or meditating.

Be Social
Join a group with an activity you enjoy, whether you’re meeting up with a book club, cooking, or walking together. Social interaction, online or in person, has been shown to boost brain fitness. And have fun while you’re at it! Playing games like Scrabble or bridge also boosts interactive skills and stimulates your brain.
* Try: Social groups and networks, chess club, join a sports team, or go dancing

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