Did you know that an estimated 40 to 45% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions? Most of us resolve to become physically fit, fiscally fit, re-organized, re-energized and overall healthier, but in that quest we often forget one of the most important aspects of complete health – mental fitness and strength.
If you don’t think you need a brain boost because you’re feeling young and fit and mentally strong, think again. A University of Virginia study shows that the average person's brain peaks at age 22. Even so, the brain has the ability to grow and change at any age, and there are proven ways to get your brain in tip-top shape, and in some cases, make it better than ever. The key is quality – quality nutrition, sleep, social life, and exercise, both physical and mental.
When it comes to brain-boosting foods, it seems research uncovers a new super food every other day. Over time, it’s become clear that many different types of foods are necessary for optimum mental functioning, including fluids, complex carbohydrates, proteins, beneficial fats, and various vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Some of the more important trace elements include Vitamin B-1, which enables the metabolism of glucose. Potassium, sodium and calcium are used for nerve cell signaling and metabolic reactions, and zinc is important for concentration and memory. Iron is essential for supplying oxygen to the brain. In one study, women with sufficient iron in their blood performed cognitive exercises better and faster than women who were iron deficient. After iron supplementation, the formerly anemic women did five to seven times better on their cognitive performance.
Unsaturated fats also protect the brain and buttress brain function, especially the polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids found in fish. Protein heightens attention and produces structural materials and transporters for the brain. Water, of course, is vital for brain function. Studies show that even slight dehydration slows the rate nutrients can enter the brain, producing short-term memory deficits, reasoning difficulties and other cognitive problems.
Keeping our brains optimally powered is also dependent on when we eat. The brain can’t store carbohydrates like muscles can so it requires a constant supply of glucose. Eating regularly ensures blood glucose levels don’t dip or surge causing concentration issues and other mental lapses. Eating breakfast is critically important. Results from 22 studies of school-age kids show that breakfast eaters have better memories, test scores and school attendance rates.
Healthy friendships also prove healthy for your brain. Research from Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center shows having close friends and staying in contact with family provides protection against Alzheimer's disease. Other studies show people with extensive social networks are at reduced risk of cognitive impairment.
Sleep supports your cognitive abilities and brain function by buttressing your brains ability to quickly process new information and concepts and to organize, store and recall memories.
Physical exercise is extremely beneficial to mental function. The immediate effects are obvious – it gets the oxygen flowing to the brain. The long-term effects are impressive. Several studies show that people who exercise are less likely to suffer memory problems, and some animal studies even suggest that physical exercise can prompt the growth of new stem cells.
Perhaps the most important aspect of resolving to have the best brain ever this year, is vowing to exercise it often. Puzzles, riddles, games and other mental exercises that keep the mind active and challenged can prevent cognitive decline, and the right type of intense brain training exercises can actually make you smarter.
LearningRx specializes in this type of intense brain training. Personal trainers use fast-paced, game-like exercises to quickly improve cognitive skills like attention, memory, logic and reasoning, auditory and visual processing and processing speed. A recent study showed adults who went through LearningRx brain training improved brain function and gained an average of 11.4 IQ points. While at-home mental exercise programs are generally not intense enough to produce that type of gain, if you push your brain with tough mental challenges, it can make a difference.
So as you ponder your New Year’s Resolutions, remember your brain, and resolve to treat it well. The brain’s amazing ability to grow and change throughout life means instead of growing old, the brain can simply grow – if we continue to challenge it through training and exercise, and nurture it with quality nutrition, sleep, exercise and friendships.
To learn more about LearningRx Kennesaw, please call 770-529-4800. LearningRx is at 3420 Acworth Due West Road NW, Kennesaw.