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From Infancy to Elderly: Top Five Ways to Maintain Your Brain

From Infancy to Elderly
Top Five Ways to Maintain Your Brain
David Perlmutter, M.D., FACN

(ARA)- Time and again, studies have shown how important exercise, regular mental stimulation, and balanced nutrition are to growing minds during childhood. In fact, scientists used to think all crucial development occurred between infancy and the teenage years. Current research, however, indicates that our brains continue to make new connections well into our senior years, and we now understand more than ever the value of nurturing our brains through every stage of our lives.
Babies, for example, are synaptic sponges. Each time you stimulate a baby's mind--with singing, talking or even cuddling--its busy little brain cells make another of the synaptic connections so critical to healthy development. As a child grows and learns to walk, talk, read, do math and socialize, even more synapses, or connections, are made.
Amazingly, the same activities continue to build our brains as we age. People young and old can incorporate these 10 tips into their daily lives to help maintain better brain health and ensure peak performance:
1. Get mental exercise: Read. Write. Take up a new hobby.
Mentally stimulating activity strengthens brain cells and the connections between them, and may even create new cells. Children experience this almost constantly, but as we get older we need to deliberately challenge our brains. For example, don't just read a book; join a book club to discuss what you've read and share your experiences with others. Also, try a new hobby, like knitting or doing crossword puzzles.
2. Get physical exercise: It's about circulation.
Physical exercise oxygenates the blood, maintains good blood flow to the brain, and encourages the formation of new brain cells. If you can afford a gym membership or a personal trainer, then do so. Running or walking outside can also prove equally beneficial if you make it part of your daily routine.
3. Adopt a brain-healthy diet: Use your head while browsing the supermarket.
Shop the outer ring of your grocery store--you'll find yourself buying fresh foods, fruits and vegetables, and eating a more brain-healthy diet. A diet considered brain-healthy is one that reduces the risk of heart disease and diabetes, encourages good blood flow to the brain and is low in saturated fat, cholesterol and calories. Studies have shown that high intakes of saturated fat and cholesterol lead to a higher risk of Alzheimer's disease.
4. Incorporate DHA into your diet: Get to know the good fats in your life.
While it is often said that Americans consume too much fat, we actually aren't getting enough of the fats that are good for us. Adequate levels of Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA), the omega-3 fatty acid found in the brain, eyes and heart, is critical for optimal brain development and function in infants, and ongoing brain function in adults. DHA has also been associated with reducing the risk for Alzheimer's disease, dementia and age-related macular degeneration, a major cause of blindness.
Fatty fish is the primary dietary source of DHA, making it difficult for most people to get enough of this important brain nutrient from diet alone. (Experts recommend about 220 mg a day for adults). There is also concern about the environmental contaminants found in some fish and fish oils. Fortunately, there is a non-fish, vegetarian alternative--DHA from algae, also known as Martek DHA. Today dietary supplements and fortified foods with DHA from algae are becoming increasingly available.
5. Be aware of toxins: Keep your bloodstream clean.
Avoid exposure to environmental toxins, including tobacco smoke and stress. It is also important to be mindful of the toxins that may be in the foods you eat. For example, certain fish may be extremely high in mercury, leading the U.S Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency to caution pregnant and nursing women, as well as children, to limit their fish consumption. All of these elements can contribute to the formation of free radicals that, if left unchecked, will damage brain cell membranes.

Courtesy of ARA Content

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