Easy Ways You Can Improve Brain Power
Can You Improve Brain Power?
Happily, promising studies show that you can improve brain power and protect the health of your brain at any age, often with very little effort. Yes, brain boosters exist and you can improve your brain power by taking advantage of them. But you must be willing to learn more, apply what you learn.
Saying the healthy brain is a complex organ is an understatement. This amazing organ performs a variety of functions from those that are voluntary (we control it) like walking, to those that are involuntary (done automatically) such as breathing or blinking. The healthy brain is central control for your body and your mind, voluntary and involuntary functions.
Over time, unlike the changes to your skin, changes to the brain aren't visible, but even the healthy brain does change with age. After age sixty, these changes start to become apparent in your abilities to perform certain functions the same way that you once did. In fact, it has been proven that the brain actually shrinks when you hit your sixties. White matter, the main substance that makes up your brain, starts to degrade even earlier, affecting memory. The dendrites and axons, the electrical transmitters of the brain, begin to shrink. The good news is that it is well within your abilities to insure that you protect the brain; you can be proactive rather than reactive and you can improve brain power by integrating brain boosters into your daily life.
So, are there easy ways to improve brain power is the question? Simply put, adequate rest, plenty of exercise, eating properly, reduced stress and good social ties all help to insure that our brain will do what it was designed to do and "operate" at maximum levels, even as we age. Let's closely explore these concepts.
Eat Super Brain Foods to Improve Brain Power
Proper eating has a major influence on brain function and brain power. Our grandparents and certain cultures somehow knew the correlation between the foods you ate and how your body performed. No one said then that there was a food that was specifically connected to brain function or brain power, however, current research has shown that there is very likely a strong connection. New evidence continually emerges with findings that show certain foods do increase brain fitness.
It only makes sense that you should eat the foods that insure optimum brain function - that are brain boosters. For instance, did you know that a lack of iron found in most red meats can impair mental functioning, making memorization and learning difficult? This doesn't mean that you must eat meat, but those who are not meat eaters are usually encouraged by their health providers to find alternative sources of iron. Iron is essential to carrying oxygen in blood and oxygen is essential to brain health and brain fitness.
Foods that are loaded with Omega-3 fatty acids are linked to a healthy brain. Most of the foods that fall in Omega-3 fatty acids category are super brain foods. Those foods include sardines (packed in water to avoid salt and extra calories in the oil and mustard packed variety), mackerel, herring and wild salmon (preferably salmon found in the Pacific from Alaska and British Columbia as these are freer from BPHs found in farm fed varieties). The walnut, which interestingly enough resembles the brain, is also an excellent source of Omega-3.
The Omega-3 fatty acids are great mood stabilizers. Studies have shown that they can have a positive affect on depression and general overall mood. A substance called DHA that is found in the Omega-3 is an essential part of the brain's make up. The acids contribute to the develpment of new brain cells, which increases brain power by affecting both the learning process and memory.
Your diet should include foods that are high in vitamin B-2 (riboflavin) to aid as brain boosters. According to the Mayo Clinic Guide to Alternative Medicine, in very high doses B-2 may "prevent migraines by correcting tiny deficiencies in brain cells." Foods high in B-2 include yogurt and tempeh which is made from soybeans and has enough protein that it can take the place of meat. It also includes strawberries, spinach, oats, millet, and quinoa. Broccoli is an excellent source of the B vitamin folate which helps the brain synapses fire correctly and protects against cell damage.
Wheat germ has been found to elevate your mood, as has chocolate that is at least 80% cocoa. But if improved memory is your goal, load up on blueberries, cranberries, and cherries. These fruit are very low in calories and are rich in flavonoids which have been linked to brain cell growth. Apples are also good for the memory because of the abundance of antioxidants that raise the function of neurotransmitters essential to memory.
If you are interested in reducing your risk of Alzheimers in later years, look in the spice section of the grocery store. Tumeric, found in curry and as a lone spice, has been widely used in Eastern medicines as an anti-inflammatory. The affects of eating tumeric in the prevention or at least the delay of Alzheimer's, are being studied with favorable results.
Another great source of brain boosters are berries. Recent research has shown that women who ate daily 21/2 cups of berries such as strawberries and blueberries, actually did add to their brain power. The scientists documented that the berries act as brain boosters. The thinking is that the improvements may be connected to to the abundance of flavonoids that the berries contain.
Other essential nutrients that may help to improve our brain power and preserve our brain function are beta carotene found in carrots, kale spinach, prunes beets, and red grapes.
Note that, in general, it is preferable to obtain nutrients from food rather than supplements. At times, however, that may not be possible. In such cases, it is essential to review the recommended dosage for any supplement and consult a health provider. For instance, Omega-3 supplements may need to take the place of some of the foods recommended. Be sure of your source, however, because some supplements may contain high mercury and PCB content, both of which are very dangerous to your health. B-2, an important brain booster aiding in the increase of brain fitness and brain power, can also be found in supplements. You should consult your doctor on any supplements and the dosage that is right for you.
Learn Something New! Try Photography
H20 - Water: the Elixir of the Brain
Drink plenty of water. As it turns out, it has been proven that quite often the nagging, throbbing pain in the head that has no apparent connection to a known cause such as sinus problems, is often showing up because the brain is in need of hydration. Drink a glass of water and that throbbing may well go away.
Like the rest of our body, the brain is mostly liquid. Eight, 8 ounce glasses of water a day is a good rule to follow. A well hydrated brain is an easy way to improve brain fitness and brain function.
Learn Something New and Play Brain Games
Keep learning! Keep those brain cells growing and synapses firing. Read books you wouldn't ordinarily choose, work puzzles, start a journal, learn a musical instrument, take up photography or learn a new language. Dr. Andrew Weil says in his book Healthy Aging research has shown a "direct link between bilingualism and improved brain function."
Take up a hobby that challenges the mind, stretches your creativity for improved brain power. You're never to old or too young to learn something new. Grandma Moses didn't start painting until she was in her eighties; Mozart created symphonies as a child.
Learn to dance, or learn a video game. According to Prevention Magazine , one of the best ways to boost the brain's power is to play video games on the Nintendo. In fact, there are Nintendo games specifically called brain games. "Like the muscles, the brain needs constant challenges to grow." Don't have a Nintendo DSL or otherwise, checkout www.prevention.com/braingames for a variety of other brain activities.
Do routine activities differently. Are you right handed? Eat your food with your left hand. It might be messy at first, but it reroutes those existing pathways. Try eating with chopsticks. How about writing with your left hand. As a child, I would often do this while sitting in class, just to see if I could. Who knew that I was also be improving my brain?
Play brain games. There are plenty to be found on the Internet. Or pick up the cross word puzzle in the local paper or in a book at the supermarket counter. You can also pick up word scrabble games and other types of brain games that require you to exercise your brain. Continued brain challenges are the objective.
Some activities are free, some are not. The point is to keep your brain engaged in activities that are interesting and elevating; that's the way to increase brain power. There is so much in this world that is open for us to learn about and do, take advantage of what's there.
Improve Brain Power by Socializing
Maintain social ties. You don't have to be the prom queen or king, but maintaining ties to your community is important to brain health. Friendships and social ties are key. Volunteering, joining a social club, or having friends you can count on for support or just to chat with can make a difference in optimum brain fitness. The childhood song "make new friends, but keep the old" is applicable to keeping mentally sharp.
In short, connection is key. Human beings are, at heart, very social beings. The very act of exposure to new concepts, new ways of thinking or even reinforcement of our current way of thinking, emerge when we interact with others. As a wonderful consequence, you improve the health of your brain. The point is, I'd bet that hermit who everyone thinks has got to be at least 90 years old is probably only 45! He's a hermit, he has no friends! He's unknowingly putting his brain power and his overall health, in jeopardy!
A stepper is a key piece of aerobic equipment.
Exercise, Exercise, Exercise
It can't be said enough: exercise is essential to your health. Exercise is imperative to brain fitness and help maintain and even improve brain power. In 2003 the New England Journal of Medicine "found that people over seventy-five who danced, read, or played board games or a musical instrument also had lower rates of dementia." Another study done in 2006 showed that aerobic exercisers increased their brain sizes" which was probably due to increased blood flow to certain areas of the brain." The study showed that exercise stimulated proteins fittingly called growth factor. Again, an easy way to improve brain fitness. Muscle power equals brain power.
Luckily, there are many ways to get the exercise you need. Walking is a wonderful form of exercise. It's free and requires no equipment except a good pair of shoes. It can be done any time of the day; you don't need to wait until the gym opens. Work up to at least an hour, a minimum of three days a week. But if you can walk three days, why not walk six days. Your brain will benefit, so will your body. Add light weights and strengthening exercises and you have increased the benefits of the endorphins (mood affecting hormones secreted by the brain) that are released into your body. My grandmother rode her bicycle throughout the small South Carolina town she lived in up until she was 84 years old, only to replace the bicycle with walking. She did quite well on her own.
Yoga is another form of exercise that is very beneficial to brain power. The stretching and postures can help you maintain a healthy physique and insure proper blood flow to the brain.
Dance is another way to get your exercise. It can also be done at home, as can yoga. Either way, any exercise is going to improve your brain fitness. You can't go wrong.
Get a Pet
It has been proven that pets are therapeutic. Pets are routinely visiting the elderly in nursing homes or snuggling with a child or adult with a disability. Studies have shown that an individual's blood pressure can be lowered if they care for a pet, such as a dog or cat. Owning a dog that requires walking can affect your weight, helping to keep you healthy and positively influencing brain fitness.
You can easily adopt a pet from the animal shelter. There are plenty of potential pets looking for good owners. Do your brain a favor while you save a pet.
Free Your Mind to Improve Brain Fitness
Do you find yourself looking for your keys or some other item you have misplaced far too often? How frustrating; what a time waster! Spend a little time with organization and you limit the time spent spinning your wheels. Put common items like the remote control in the same place to minimize frustration and waste of time and waste of brain power.
Don't waste brain space on items you can neatly tuck away using today's electronic or even paper assists. Put appointments in your agenda, on a wall calendar or in your smart phone. Use the alarms on your computer or your phone to remind yourself of meetings, birthdates and important assignations. Why spend your brain power trying to retrieve from memory your mother-in-law's birthday when you could use that brain power to tackle the best means to grow your business, design a dress, write a story or at the very least, to pick out that birthday present? Don't clutter the the mind with menial tasks like dates to pay the bills or the grocery list for tonight's dinner when you could enter it on the phone's calendar or make a list. Trying to keep track of minutia won't improve brain fitness.
One of the greatest perils to healthy brain fitness is the lack of sleep. There is a reason sleep deprivation is a form of torture. Thinking is impaired and memory is almost nonexistent in extreme cases. It is grueling and makes you feel physically ill. New moms and dads are well aware of this. In fact, sleep deprivation is one of the most common complaints of new parents. So unless you have a newborn, there should be no reason to skimp on your sleep and put your brain fitness in jeopardy. If you have chronic difficulties sleeping, it is imperative that you seek help. If your difficulty is minor, set the stage for uninterrupted sleep by winding down your day at least an hour before you go to bed. No caffeine loaded beverages in the afternoon. Don't eat after 8:00 p.m. Bedtime stories can work for adults, too. Read a little. Turn off all electronics, like the television. And try to make "lights out" at the same time each night. If you work at night, mimic the same advice before you go to bed in the day as that for going to bed at night. Improving your brain fitness depends on these simple, easy to follow suggestions.
Last, be grateful. Gratitude is such a simple concept yet it is one that many people don't embrace. We can all find something to be grateful for if you only look around. A sense of gratitude is helpful as you tackle the challenges of the day. It can give you a sense of peace, lessening your anxiety level and, consequently, promoting optimum brain fitness even as the atmosphere around you may be tense. Why not begin and end the day as I began this article - in gratitude.
Ultimately, it is thought you can improve brain fitness. Research is taking place even now to learn how to maintain, even improve brain fitness. There is no magic pill that acts as a brain booster, but research is providing solid evidence that there is plenty that can be done to increase our brain power. There is no one definitive answer, but rather, it appears that there is the combination of all of the above that can help brain functioning. Following these simple suggestions - exercise, eat right, drink enough water, get enough sleep - are easy ways to improve brain fitness and contribute to your overall health.
© 2011 Cynthia B. Turner
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