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Now Your Thinking: Exercise Your Brain More So That You Forget Less

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By Mia Bolaris-Forget

It’s actually ironic. As organized and meticulous as I am, though, putting things in places of safe keeping (that make complete sense at the time) its rare that I remember what I did with them. In fact, 9 times out of 10, I’m frantically searching for something that I know I put someplace so that I WOULDN’T misplace it. And, it has nothing to do with age. I’ve been doing this all my life. I once even misplaced my checkbook, strangely enough after giving an old flame hell for misplacing his.

Ah, the phenomenon of forgetfulness. Many of us hurried ladies and gentlemen suffer from the same syndrome. But, according to the experts there are certain strategies we can use to boost our brains and our brainpower.

1. Food for thought: Believe it or not, there are certain foods that can contribute to memory and brain function. According to experts having a diet low in unhealthy fats (no more than 20 percent) and replete with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, not much meat, but plenty of fish is highly recommended.

According to research, a diet high in cellular stress caused by oxidation can lead to cognitive declines. Fight back with dark-colored fruits and veggies including apricots, cantaloupes, watermelon, mangos, kale, chard, spinach and broccoli to boost the production of acetylcholine, an essential chemical released from the nerve cells that bolsters communication between cells.

Salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines and herring also boost brainpower, due to their omega-3 fatty acid content. Remember, our brains are solely comprised of about 60 percent fat but rely on simple sugar (glucose) for fuel. Give it ample energy with complex carbs such as brown rice, bulgur, quinoa, whole-wheat pasta and couscous. Keep in mind that carbs get a lot of flack, but whole grains are praised because they break down more slowly and don’t result in major swings in insulin production, leasing the issues associated with poor mental performance.

2. Vital vitamins: Since most of us don’t get quite enough healthful foods, we need to supplement our diets with certain supplements.

· Folate: This essential vitamin is part of the B-vitamin group and is found naturally in legumes, kidneys, oranges, and leafy green veggies. In fact, experts recommend a daily dose of 400 micrograms; an amount that studies show reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s (and you can begin showing signs even early on in life) by about 55 percent. And, those who took 800 micrograms a day scored better on memory tests.

· Other B-vitamins: Vitamins such as B6 and B12 are essential in the formation of the sheaths around the nerve cells that aid in the communication between these cells. Also, people with failing memories shoe lower levels of B-vitamins in their system.

· The C and E factors: According to studies, people who have the highest levels of both these antioxidants were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s. Experts recommend between 4000 and 1,000 International Units of vitamin E, and 500 to 1,500 milligrams of vitamin C.

· Omega-3 Fats and Fatty Acids. Mostly found in fish, experts suggest at least two servings of tuna, salmon, or sardines weekly as well as taking a supplement. They note that while there is no recommended amount, you can get all you need from fish oil pills. But, be sure the pills you pop and fish you feast on are free from contaminants such as mercury.

3. Take a sip to prevent memory slip: Experts suggest ordering a glass of pine noir.

While alcohol is noted for destroying brain cells, a small amount can actually do you good. Keep it to maximum two small drinks per day for men and one for ladies.

While beer and other alcoholic beverages have some benefits, the ones researchers boast about most is those found in red wine, because of the abundance to the antioxidant resveratrol.

This natural type of polyphenol is also found in berries and peanuts and is a compound produced by plants to fend off disease in response to stressors like fungus, injury or infection. And, the wines with the most resveratrol are those made from pinot noir grapes. In fact, studies show that white wines only offer a small percentage (less than 5%) of the average amount of resveratrol found in red wines.

Some (other) studies show that resveratrol also eliminated plaque buildup in the brain that may mess up intercellular communication. Plus, it also reduces your risk for cancer and heart disease.

4. Not such a touch pill to swallow: According to statistics people who regularly took non-steroidal anti-inflammatory aspirin and ibuprofen were successful at keeping their brains healthy. But, experts add it’s not for everyone.
According to studies, chronic inflammation is shown to damage nerve tissues. And there “does” seem to be a significant correlation between inflammation and memory lapse disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.

However, while anti-inflammatories may be helpful in helping maintain brain health, some suggest preliminary studies need further investigation.

5. Clear your mind: According to experts prayer/meditation can offer significant health rewards, including lowering blood pressure. And, it has been proven more effective at bolstering longevity better than any conventional non-drug therapies including exercise, weight loss and salt restriction.

In addition to counteracting possible heart issues that can result in lapsed brain function, prayer/meditation has been noted as a great stress reducer lowering significant levels of the stress hormone known as cortisol, when found in abundance can really take a toll on memory recall.

Plus, recent research revealed that there’s actually a thickening of the cortex, the part of the brain responsible for higher functions when your meditate/pray. And, experts add that it may also help prevent the thinning of this area (the cortex) that occurs naturally with each passing year as we “mature” and age.

6. Remember, laughter is the best medicine: And, it seems more and more research is proving it. Like “meditation”, laughing helps reduce the stress hormone cortisol and it relaxes your arteries so that cholesterol is less apt to build up. In fact, having a hearty laugh can cause your body to react in much the same way as exercise does, reducing stress, and releasing endorphins, otherwise known as “feel good” hormones that do your body and your brain a world of good.

7. Social Studies: According to experts, our bodies and our minds work at optimum performance level when we meet their intrinsic need to socialize.

They add that the fast, almost “secluded” lives many of us lead can take a toll on both our body and our mind resulting in overwhelming stress and depression and taking a toll on our cognitive performance and memory. In fact, studies suggest that the healthiest bodies and minds have been found in people with the strongest relationships (with others).

Experts suggest the relationships stimulate our brains and engaging in activities with others is a wonderful way to expand our horizons, experiences, and exercise our brains.

8. R & R: While many type-As, like myself, often view and consider rest/sleep a “waste of time”, experts assert that a solid rest is essential for a properly functioning brain and body.

Researchers suspect that the brain cells use the down time as a “time out” to restore themselves from any damage doe. So, without sufficient sleep neurons don’t get the chance to repair all the damage, often resulting in a “mental malfunction” (at least when it comes to memory). In addition, they suggest that sleep may also allow the brain to experience a “workout” so to speak, of important neuronal connections that may go dormant.

Professionals recommend between 7 and 8 hours a night for adults.

9. Use it or loose it: While it’s important for your brain’s health to let it relax, it’s also important to keep it active.

According to scientists, the brain functions best when it is learning and it requires “change” and the opportunity to experience new things, concepts, ideas, etc.

Still, experts can’t completely pinpoint which activity is best, they agree that anything that challenges and expands your knowledge and mind will be effective. From reading to doing crossword puzzles or new hobbies the key is to engage the brain in things that require it to rebuild itself and stay functional and strong.

10. Work out the kinks: build your brain muscle by also building body muscle and staying fit. Experts suggest that sweating and/or physical activity in general helps improve blood flow, releases stress-reducing endorphins and strengthens the connections between brain cells, actually increasing the number of brain cells themselves.

From routine cardiovascular to a stroll or even gardening and/or cleaning house, it all good for your body, heart and brain. In fact, studies show that active people have greater attention and concentration to their more sedentary counterparts and that their grey matter is actually thicker, protecting from the “perils” of stress and age.

Professionals point out that one part of the brain directly affected by exercise is known as the hippocampus, a veritable “clearinghouse” for the brain, that decides what information to keep and what to disregard of. It’s also essential for learning and making associations. And, studies show that exercise and physical activity stimulates the production of new brain cells (neurons) in the hippocampus.

11. Exercise your brain with neurobics: This according to experts this is a combination of the word “neuron” (brain cell) and “aerobics” that’s the latest “craze” for keeping your brain healthy according to neuroscience research. In fact, scientists suggest that specific kinds of sensory stimulation result in brain cells secreting molecules called neurotrophins that act like nutrients improving cellular health.

Experts highly recommend activities that “force” you to experience the unexpected and that engage your senses. They suggest showering with your eyes closed, just about anything that out of the ordinary and challenges your mind to deviate from regular routine. In fact, the more senses you engage the better. The key is forcing your brain to work with a new set of sensory impulses, even as simple as rolling down the window at a red light and taking in the sounds and smells; forcing it (your brain) to build connections in your neuronal network. Making your brain work in different ways every day, say experts, is like weight training for your mind, helping it grow and keeping you mentally astute.

Long Island Health, Fitness & Beauty Articles > Now Your Thinking: Exercise Your Brain More So That You Forget Less

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