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National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month: How to keep your brain sharp.

Staying mentally alert and healthy is just as important as staying physically healthy. You can help your brain function by eating right, exercising, challenging your mind and managing stress. Everyone has minor memory lapses from time to time – like losing keys or forgetting names. That’s normal. The good news is, you can take healthy steps now to help protect your brain. Try these tips to enhance your brain health at any age.

You can fight back against age-related dementia and cognitive decline by making healthy food choices:

  • Don’t skip breakfast. Fuel your body with a healthy breakfast, which may improve short-term memory and attention. Focus on high-fiber whole grains and fruit.

  • Enjoy a handful of berries. Foods with powerful antioxidant properties, such as blueberries, may reduce and even reverse age-related damage to brain cells.

  • Add avocados to your lunch. The healthy fats in avocados are essential for brain and heart health.

  • Snack on nuts and seeds. These are a good source of vitamin E, which may help keep your mind sharp.

  • Eat fish two times per week. Omega-3 fatty acids found in certain fish are believed to protect the brain.

When you have healthy blood flow from the heart to the brain, your brain can function better. Help your brain by breaking a sweat.

  • Go for a walk. Aerobic exercise can protect memory and thinking skills. This includes any activity where you break a sweat and get your heart pumping.

  • Blow off steam. When you’re stressed, your body releases cortisol, a hormone that negatively affects the brain’s memory center. Focus on physical activity that helps you relax and let go of stress, whether it’s strength training, kickboxing or yoga.

Stress and anxiety can put a lot of strain on your brain. If you’re stressed out most of the time, you may have trouble thinking clearly and remembering details. That’s because the hormones your body releases when under stress can impair your memory and problem-solving skills.

Taking control of your stress can help you shake off the negative effects on your memory. Try these tips for clearing your mind and shifting from stressed to calm.

  1. Change your focus. Feeling distressed after reading bad news headlines? Shift your mindset: Flip the script and share a positive article you found on social media.

  2. Zap stress with exercise. Exercise during stressful times can be the last thing you feel up to doing. However, even as little as a long methodical walk in nature can help to reset and restore perspective.

  3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Stressed out by an overwhelming task on your own (e.g., filing taxes or getting a medical test)? Ask for help or bring someone with you for support.

Have you flexed your memory lately? Mental exercise stimulates the brain and memory, and it’s something you need to do every day to stay sharp. Engage your brain with mentally challenging tasks.

  • Do mental math. How much will it cost to fill up the tank with gas? Try to run the numbers in your head instead of reaching for a calculator.

  • Learn something new. Take an art class or learn a few words in a new language.

  • Play mind games: See our brainteasers below

Take your left hand, make a fist, and extend your thumb; do you the same with your right, only extend your pinky. Now switch them so it’s left pinky and right thumb.

Not so easy? The coordination involved will strengthen neural connections, which helps with memory and other gray matter functions.

A rebus is a puzzle which combines the use of illustrated pictures with letters to depict words and/or phrases. How many can you solve?

Answers to rebus puzzles:

  1. I believe in you

  2. Tongue tied

  3. Back to square one

Say the color of the words, instead of reading it. Optional: Use a stopwatch to time how long it takes you to complete this task.

You may have found this difficult to do, as your initial impulse was to read the word. This effect is named after John Ridley Stroop, who first published it in 1935. It has been widely used in psychology to measure selective attention capacity and skills as well as processing speed. Researchers use the effect during brain imaging studies to investigate regions of the brain involved in planning, decision-making, and managing real-world interference, such as texting and driving.


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