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Surprising Ways to Build Your Brain
A decline in mental sharpness seems an inevitable part of the aging process. The aptly named “senior moments” come more often as we get older, and with them comes the fear of more sinister cognitive loss. While researchers don’t understand all the factors that contribute to Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, they do know that some activities seem to improve brain function as we age. And some of those activities may surprise you.
Prevention magazine offers some suggestions for keeping your brain young:
Try an Internet search. Looking for information on the Web engages several cognitive functions. And the more you search, the more powerful the effect. In fact, a UCLA study showed almost three times more brain activity in experienced searchers than in those surfing for the first time. So hop online and start looking for answers to questions you have been pondering for years.
Get moving. Scientists are in virtually unanimous agreement that exercise is good for the brain as well as the body. In fact, a recent study by the University of Illinois suggests that aerobic exercise not only sharpens thought, but also increases the volume of brain tissue. That’s some powerful motivation to get back on the treadmill.
Take care of your teeth. British scientists have discovered a relationship between good oral hygiene and brain function. According to the scientists, poor cognitive function is linked with gingivitis and periodontal disease. And as a bonus, brushing and flossing might help you avoid painful and expensive dental treatments.
Watch what you drink. What you heard in college about alcohol killing off your brain cells was not an urban legend: A study by Wellesley College suggests that brain volume decreases as alcohol consumption increases. And of course, excessive drinking can lead to a host of other problems, from impaired judgment to cirrhosis of the liver.
Pile on the blueberries. Research by the National Institute on Aging and Tufts University suggests that eating blueberries can help stave off the natural effects of aging on the brain and may even promote brain cell growth. They believe it is the blue pigment, called anthocyanin, that causes the improvements.
Do Sudoku and other puzzles. In a University of Alabama study, older people who did 60 to 75 minutes worth of puzzles 10 times ended up improving their brain function by about a decade, so sharpen those pencils. Do different kinds of puzzles, and when you master one level, move up to the next.
Meditate. You probably think of meditation as a way to reduce stress, and it is excellent for that purpose. But it also can improve your brain function. People who meditated performed better than those who did not in a University of Kentucky study, and another study at Massachusetts General Hospital showed that meditation increased brain growth. All that, and stress reduction, too.