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Keep Your Mental Edge as You Age

Apr 23, 2012, 6 a.m.

If you’ve ever walked into a room to look for something but forgot what you were looking for, you’re familiar with the feelings of forgetfulness and frustration. Unless you take immediate action, these feelings may worsen each year. There are easy lifestyle choices you can make every day to sustain your mental edge as you age.

Cognitive decline, including memory loss, is one of the top fears among people over the age of 55. More than half of Baby Boomers fear the loss of mental capacity, and 41 percent are afraid their brain fitness has decreased in the past 10 years, according to a 2010 report in Today's Dietitian.

“New research shows that by changing our lifestyle habits we can help grow key parts of our brains, resulting in better memory, improved learning speed and mental agility,” said Majid Fotuhi M.D., Ph.D., chairman of the Neurology Institute for Brain Health and Fitness in Baltimore.

Give your brain a physical workout

Exercise helps maintain a healthy body and brain. Research has found associations between physical activity and reduced risk of cognitive decline.

Give your body and brain a workout by engaging in physical activities such as yoga, walking and weight lifting, at least 30 minutes every day. It helps keep cholesterol levels in check, maintains good blood flow and encourages the growth of new brain cells and connections.

Nourish your mind

Help protect your brain cells from memory loss by following a diet that includes foods rich in good fats such as DHA, a major structural fat accounting for up to 97 percent of the omega-3 fats in the brain. DHA intake has been associated with a decreased risk of mental decline associated with aging. The body doesn’t make DHA on its own, so you need to consume DHA though food or supplements.

“The more omega-3 fat you eat, the more it is incorporated into brain cells, the more flexible your brain cell membranes become, the better you think, the more you remember and the happier you are,” said Elizabeth Somer, M.A., registered dietitian and author of Eat Your Way to Happiness.

You can find DHA in certain foods, but another easy way to get it is by taking a daily DHA supplement like BrainStrong Adult, which contains 900 mg per serving of life’sDHA, which is clinically shown to improve memory in adults over 55, according to a study published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Activate your mind through mental stimulation

Develop a “use it or lose it” philosophy when it comes to your brain. Studies have shown that brain cells, much like muscle cells, can grow bigger and stronger with cognitive challenges and stimulation.

Pursuing education, learning a new language, reading, working crossword puzzles and even playing board games are fun ways to exercise your mind. Keep your brain active by engaging in brain-boosting activities you enjoy. Commit to learning something new each month.

Stay socially connected

Friends and family are often the key to happiness, and they just may be the key to brain health as well. Social interaction not only makes your life more fun and meaningful, but it also stimulates and protects your brain.

Stay connected with others by being part of an in-person interaction, whether it's in the workplace, a card club, a network of friends or a religious congregation. Seek out friends and family for emotional support to help manage stress and stay happy. Put your passions into action by volunteering for a cause you feel passionate about.

By giving your brain a little more attention, you’ll not only lead a fuller life, but you’ll also be helping to keep your mental edge.

For more about brain health, visit www.BrainStrongDHA.com.

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