10 easy ways to boost your brain power

Want to stay sharp? A few simple lifestyle choices can help keep your brain fit and your memory strong. Here are 10 ways to maximize brain health and minimize cognitive decline.

1. Exercise your brain

You can keep your brain in top form with stimulating activities like puzzles, board games and journal writing. Video games that involve multitasking may help with memory and attention. But don’t stick with just one activity — you need a variety of tasks in order to give all parts of your brain a workout.

2. Feed your brain

The brain thrives on a healthy diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and lean meats. Many nutrients in these foods are linked to a positive mood. A well-balanced diet appears to reduce stress and help you sleep.

3. Meditate regularly

A small study at the University of California showed that people who meditate over the long term have better brain connections and less brain shrinkage. Other researchers have also found differences in the brains of people who meditate. Scientists are exploring the positive effects that meditation may have on mental health and function.

4. Have a drink

Water intake is essential for brain function. Psychologists in Germany have found evidence that coffee lifts mood. And a new study at Wake Forest University even shows that drinking nitrate-rich beet juice improves blood flow in the brains of older adults.

5. Be social (when it’s safe to do so)

Spending social time with friends and family is known to protect the brain against depression, stress and memory loss. Don’t pass up opportunities to get together with friends. And consider signing up for volunteer work in the community. Volunteering has been linked to better brain function in older adults.

6. Exercise your body

Did you know that moving your arms and legs is good for your brain? Physical activity nourishes the brain by boosting blood circulation. Exercise also releases chemicals that can ease the symptoms of depression and anxiety and improve memory.

7. Protect your head

A team of Canadian scientists has found that concussions can change your brain function for months or years, even if you don’t notice symptoms. Concussions may also increase the risk for depression and dementia later in life. Reduce your risk of head trauma by wearing a helmet whenever it’s recommended.

8. Get enough sleep

When we don’t sleep well, it affects attention, memory and cognitive performance. Scientists are now discovering that sleep is the brain’s self-cleaning time; during sleep, brain cells shrink to make room for an increased flow of fluid, and toxins that have accumulated during the day are washed away. Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep a night.

9. Explore your musical side

Taking up a musical instrument can challenge your brain. But there’s more to it than that. Music is a proven therapy for mental conditions like anxiety, dementia and post-traumatic stress disorder. In children, musical training appears to help with language learning, memory and attention. In a study with seniors, musical training improved mood and mental function.

10. Get a regular check-up

Keeping tabs on the health of your body will help you look after your brain. Many medical conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and thyroid disorders can affect brain function. Visit your doctor regularly. You’ll be able to check for these conditions — and you’ll stay healthy from head to toe!

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