Brain Power

Random suggestions for better brain health:

Salt: Drs. Oz and Roizen say excess salt can double our stroke risk. They, along with the American Heart Association, recommend a salt intake of not more than 1500 mg a day, which is a far cry from the “restaurant meals, canned/processed foods and even healthy-sounding stuff like rye bread” many Americans consume. (March 14, 2011 column)

Diet: Dr. Caroline Leaf in “The Switch on Your Brain 5-Step Learning Process” manual wrote that “Everything you eat and drink affects your body, especially your brain. When your diet feeds your brain, your thinking will improve—the right foods help you to be more focused, alert and intelligent, and more stable in your emotions and behavior patterns.” (You can find her suggestions for brain nourishment in the previous blog.)

Alzheimer’s Prevention: In a March 28 column, Drs. Oz and Roizen recommend six ways we can reduce our risk of Alzheimer’s. Eat more salads, fish and fruit; walk thirty minutes a day; don’t smoke; drink coffee; drink alcohol in moderation; and take 900 mg a day of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), an omega-3 fatty acid.

Physical Exercise: Dr. Clifford Jack, professor of radiology at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, says “exercise may improve the brain, potentially slowing the development of dementia. Physical activity can reduce the vascular disease that often exacerbates the severity of dementia…” (State Farm goodneighbor magazine).

Mental Exercise: A 2007 MayoClinic.com article indicates we can keep our minds sharp and agile by learning new skills. “An active brain produces new connections between nerve cells that allow cells to communicate with one another. This helps your brain store and retrieve information more easily, no matter what your age.” The article also suggests we stay physically active, develop healthy eating habits, drink alcohol in moderation (if at all), manage stress, protect our heads when involved in certain sports and stop smoking.

Walking: A January Parade Magazine article reported a thirteen-year study that found walking six to nine miles a week may stop the brain from shrinking as we age. “Exercise increases the amount of blood going to the brain,” said lead study author Kirk Erickson, a University of Pittsburgh professor.

B Vitamins: While we’re talking about brain shrinkage, a British study reported in September of 2010 found that high doses of B vitamins cut brain shrinkage by as much as fifty percent. “Those who took folic acid, vitamins B6 and B12 had their brains shrink by 0.76 percent a year on average, while those on placebo had an atrophy rate of 1.0 percent.”

Looks like what’s good for our bodies is also good for our brains. Plant a garden, take a walk, learn a new skill! Enjoy, Becky

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