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Brain Fitness; 10 Tips to Stay Sharp

According to a recent study by the University of California of San Francisco, reducing risk factors such as being overweight, smoking and low physical activity by 25 percent could prevent up to half a million cases of Alzheimer’s and other dementias in the United States.

To help keep your brain fit in the coming years and throughout the remainder of your life, implement the following techniques into your daily routine:  

1.    Exercise:  The best way to keep your brain young is through physical activity and exercise. Individuals who are active tend to maintain better cognitive memory. Higher exercise levels are also linked to reducing the risk of developing dementia up to 40%, according to neuroscientist at the University of Illinois.

2.    Weight train:  Lifting weights can have a greater impact on your brain health, especially for women. "Resistance training may increase the levels of growth factors in the brain such as IGF1, which nourish and protect nerve cells," according to the head of Aging, Mobility and Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory.

3.    Learn new skills:  Stepping out of your comfort level and learning new things such as knitting or Tai Chi, for example, can grow new brain cells. When the brain is challenged, the number of brain cells increases along with the connection between those cells.

4.    Meditation:  Chronic stress floods your brain with cortisol, which leads to impaired memory. Meditation is a great way to stay focused and calm, thus reducing harmful stress hormones.

5.    Eat healthy:
  Researchers at Columbia University have conducted studies that show eating a healthy Mediterranean diet rich in fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts and beans can reduce the risk of Alzheimer's by 34 to 48 percent. Further, studies have suggested that older people who eat a diet primarily of fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens, may have a slower rate of cognitive decline and a lower risk for dementia than meat lovers.

6.    Keep it spicy:  Adding herbs and spices to your meals is easy and beneficial for your brain. The spices that have the highest amounts of antioxidants are: black pepper, cinnamon, oregano, basil, parsley, ginger and vanilla.

7.    Find purpose: Having a clear set of goals is important as we age. Purpose and direction have been shown to help older adults reduce their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

8.    Have friends: Cultivate a close network of friends and relationships.  A support network may help to protect against dementia by providing emotional and mental stimulation, says Laura Fratiglioni, M.D., of Sweden's Karolinska Institute.

9.    Reduce risks: Diabetes can double the risk for Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.

10. Check your vitamins:  Sometimes we don’t always get all of the nutrients we need from our foods, which is why it is important to take vitamin supplements to avoid being deficient in an area. Research from Rush University Medical Center says that adults at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency have smaller brains and scored lowest on tests that measured thinking, reasoning and memory.
 

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