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How to Keep Your Brain Sharp

Check out these five ways to boost brain fitness from Dr. Kevin Duff, neuropsychologist with University of Utah HealthCare.


USE IT OR LOSE IT

Your brain is like a muscle. If it gets regular exercise, it will maintain its strength and function for a long time. If it sits around on the couch all day, it will function slowly and inefficiently. Exactly how you use your brain is up to you. There is no “best” exercise for brain fitness. Just challenge your brain. At work, while doing hobbies or interacting with family and friends. It’s best to cross train your brain by mixing things up occasionally. Choose an activity you enjoy, you’ll do it more often.

EAT FISH

Fish is brain food. Fish and fish oils have been shown to have some health benefits, including for our thinking abilities. Fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are the “good” fats needed for a healthy body and healthy heart. They contain chemicals frequently used in the brain (acetylcholine, dopamine). Countries with higher fish consumption tend to have lower rates of depression and lower rates of cognitive decline.

In general, a well-balance diet is essential for physical and cognitive health. Vegetables, fruits, proteins and grains (minimally processed) are all necessary to maintain our brains. And although chocolate has some antioxidant properties, there is limited evidence to suggest a diet of chocolate (like we typically eat it) is beneficial for our brain.

SKIP “MAGIC” PILLS

Despite the claims you might see on late night TV or the internet, there are no currently available over-the-counter medications, supplements or natural remedies that have been shown to improve memory or other cognitive abilities in healthy adults. There are medications approved to help slow the progression of severe memory disorders (Alzheimer’s disease), but these are not recommended for people without those conditions.

EXERCISE

Regular aerobic exercise keeps your body and your brain fit. Cardiovascular health leads to a strong heart which ultimately improves circulation to the brain. So get moving! Walk, run, bike, dance, just do it for 30 minutes every other day.

RELAXATION & REST

Stress can negatively impact brain function. So relax! Do yoga, meditate, get out and work in the garden. Activities that reduce stress are good for brain fitness. And be sure to get plenty of rest. Getting enough sleep is important, but a chronic lack of sleep has the biggest impact on memory and other brain functions.


For more information on this topic and the University’s Center for Alzheimer’s Care, Imaging and Research, visit www.healthcare.utah.edu/neurosciences.

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