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13 Ways To Boost Your Brain

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You work out your muscles, but what about your brain? As we age, cognitive function will decline over time; for some, faster than others. The following tips will help you keep your noggin' going strong.

1. Stay Positive: Turns out, fretting about cognitive decline could bring about a self-fulfilling prophecy. Negative attitudes toward the aging brain may make people less inclined to do something about it. Plus, all that negative thinking can impair other aspects of your life.

2. Play a Game of Cards: A 2015 study showed that playing cards leads to greater brain volume in several regions of the brain, plus it can help with improved memory and thinking skills. 

3. Don't Neglect Your Gums: Plaque buildup is not just bad for your teeth (and your breath), but it's bad for your brain. Floss every single day. Your dentist, and your brain, will thank you. 

4. Use Your Fingers: Doing things with your fingers, especially fingertip activities like using chopsticks, knitting, and rolling a pen between your fingers, stimulates your brain. 

5. Drink This, Not That: Studies show heavy alcohol consumption can lead to early-onset dementia before age 65. Sugary sodas aren't doing your brain any favors either. However, drinks like red wine (in moderation) with its antioxidant resveratrol content, coffee, and green and black tea might have brain boosting properties. But let's not forget water. Water is vital for brain health. 

6. Fuel Your Brain Wisely: Choose vibrantly-hued fruits and veggies (blueberries, bell peppers, oranges) that are rich in vitamins and other nutrients. Also, fatty fish and walnuts (which are also high in omega-3s) have been shown to support cognitive function. The Mediterranean Diet is a good, choice, too!

Woman about to eat a spoonful of yogurt with blueberries

7. Learn a New Language: According to numerous studies, being bilingual or learning a new language helps with memory as well as improved visual-spatial skills.  

8. Boost Your Senses: Focusing on smell, touch, and hearing can all stimulate different areas of your brain. Conversely, hearing loss can contribute to cognitive decline. 

9. Use OTC Sleep Aids Sparingly: Some research reveals that nonprescription/OTC sleep aids that contain the active ingredient diphenhydramine (found in allergy meds and sleep aids) may cause cognitive confusion, grogginess and may block communication between nerve cells. 

10. Get Your ZZZs: Conversely, getting a good night's rest is important for brain function and memory. 

11. Stay Active: You know you need to for overall health, but studies show exercise, even moderate aerobic exercise like walking, is highly effective at boosting cognitive function, particularly for adults ages 50 and older. A 2017 review of randomized, controlled trials concluded that for this age group, moderate intensity exercise (either aerobic exercise or strength training) was definitely linked to improved cognitive function. 

12. Build Your Social Network: We aren't talking about social media, here. Several studies show that staying connected and improving your social connection with others are associated with a lower risk of dementia and longer life expectancy.

13. Find Your Purpose: A 2017 study found that having goals is great for your brain. In fact, a goal-driven purpose in life is associated with a 30% reduction in dementia. 

-- By LaRue Gillespie

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