The greatest gift you have as a human being is your intelligence… your “brain power.” Your ability to reason, to solve problems and, most important, to remember – is what makes you the individual that you are. Loss of this ability, particularly memory loss, either short-term or long-term, is a frightening prospect for anyone.
In my Institute of Healthy Aging I make sure that everyone of my patients understands that loss of memory does not have to happen to anyone who lives long enough. Now, thanks to a deeper understanding of how the brain works and breakthroughs in prevention, that’s no longer the case. In fact, it’s possible to actually “revitalize” your memory by taking a few simple, surefire actions.
Once upon a time, doctors and medical researchers believed you had a set number of brain cells. As you aged, these brain cells would shrink, and some would die or become damaged. But you didn’t make new brain cells. So everyone was doomed to a shrinking, less functional brain as they aged.
Fortunately, that’s not actually how things work. New research has revealed that you can grow new brain cells all through your life. And you can develop new connections between your brain cells, too. What this means is that cognitive decline isn’t an inevitable part of aging. You just need to take proper care of your brain—and the best time to start is now!
Simply by following some of the suggestion I mention below I guarantee that you’ll be able to enhance and protect your most valuable assets: your mind and memory.
Eating your way to Brain Power!
Here, then, are the basic dietary steps you can take – starting today – to increase your brain longevity and your brain power.
• Learn to choose good fats. Your brain uses fats as a valuable resource, but it needs the right kinds of fats. Mono and polyunsaturated fats are good. Essential fatty acids also play an important role. The one fat you should always avoid is trans fat.
• Limit grains and potatoes. Grains and potatoes both force your body to release insulin in order to use the sugar they release into your blood. Too much of these kinds of foods create a destructive cycle of elevated insulin, which damages cells.
• Eat a balanced diet. That means a balance of fresh fruit and vegetables in a variety of colors, along with good quality dairy and meat products.
• Be sure to have at least two servings a daily of chicken, turkey, fish, beans, avocado, or Swiss cheese. These foods are a great natural source of the B vitamins (thiamin, B6 and B12) that are proven brain enhancers
• An apple a day keeps memory loss at bay. Apples not only make tasty snacks, they’re also full of boron, a mineral that speeds the movement of other nutrients into and out of brain cells. Grapes and broccoli are also good sources of boron.
• Don’t forget the eggs. Eggs are rich in choline, a key building block in the production of acetylcholine, a necessary nutrient to ward off forgetfulness.
• Eat a serving of yogurt each day. Yogurt contains tyrosine, an amino acid your brain needs to be at its best. Studies show tyrosine supplements boost alertness and memory. Plain yogurt with a bit of honey or fruit mixed in is your best bet.
• Don’t miss meals. When you skip a meal or are forced to miss a meal for some reason, your blood sugar level can drop (hypoglycemia). When that happens, you’ll probably notice an almost immediate feeling of lightheadedness and, perhaps, irritability. Your short- and long-term memory can be affected.
The Difference Relaxation and Exercise Makes!
Aside from poor nutrition, there’s another big brain cell killer. And that’s stress.
Stress produces cortisol, a hormone. Too much cortisol damages brain cells and can cause you to feel foggy and forgetful. Cortisol is one of the few hormones that rises as you age. But you can control cortisol levels by learning to control your stress.
Of course, you can’t completely eliminate stress from your life. But you can reduce its effects using the following techniques:
• Breathing exercises
• Taking up a hobby
Exercise provides a direct benefit to your brain. In one study, even mild exercise like walking for 30 minutes three times each week improved brain function by 15%. People in the study improved both concentration and abstract reasoning.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.