6 Tips for Powering Up Your Brain

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Between 2000 and 2017 deaths from heart disease have decreased 9% while deaths from alzheimer’s have increased 145%.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, an estimated 5.8 million Americans of all ages are living with Alzheimer’s dementia in 2019.

By 2050, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s dementia may grow to a projected 13.8 million, barring no medical breakthroughs to prevent, slow or cure the disease.

Not only is it difficult coming to terms with a loved one’s memory loss, but it can add additional stress to everyday activities around the house.

This is why dementia is such a difficult road to navigate for so many people and families around the world. While there’s no cure for Alzheimer’s dementia yet, a lot of research is being done to try to find treatments and practices that can slow or prevent cognitive decline.

The Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Ohio is one of the leading research centers for dementia. And so far, they’ve found six lifestyle changes that can improve brain health.

If you’re struggling with memory problems or you have a family history of dementia, it’s never too late to make some simple changes to your lifestyle that can improve your chances of fighting memory loss.

Here are the Cleveland Clinic’s six pillars of a healthy brain:

Pillar 1: Physical Exercise

“What’s good for your heart is good for your brain.”

People who exercise regularly have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, says the Cleveland Clinic.

Exercise improves blood flow and memory; it stimulates chemical changes in the brain that enhance learning, mood and thinking. Even if you’ve never exercised, any physical activity is better than none at all.

What kind of exercise is best?

Endurance exercise, like running, swimming or biking, has been shown to foster new brain cell growth and preserve existing brain cells.

Strength training, like lifting weights or using resistance bands, builds muscle, strengthens your bones, and improves your mood. It can also enhance concentration and increase your decision-making skills.

Flexibility/balance training, like Yoga and Tai Chi can improve your posture, reduce risk of injuries and falls, and improve your overall movement and ability to do things better throughout life. Even simple exercises like standing on one foot or walking backward have proven helpful.

Pillar 2: Food & Nutrition

“Eat smart, think better.”

As you age, your brain is exposed to more harmful stress due to lifestyle and environmental factors. This leads to oxidation of your brain cells.

Imagine what a cut apple looks like after it’s left on a counter for 5 minutes. That browning is oxidation and the same general idea is what’s happening to your brain as you get old.

Luckily, there are lots of antioxidants available in food that can help protect your brain from these harmful effects.

Research shows that a Mediterranean-style diet rich in fish, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, olives, and nuts helps maintain brain health and may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, says the Cleveland Clinic.

The MIND and DASH diets are also good options to consider. Of course, if you’re at risk of developing diabetes, follow the diet your doctor recommends.

There is a high correlation between diabetes and dementia. Some researchers have even referred to dementia as Type 3 Diabetes. To protect your brain, you need to keep your blood sugar levels in check and that starts with what you eat.

Pillar 3: Medical Health

“Control medical risks.”

Hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, head trauma, higher cholesterol, and smoking all increase the risk of dementia, says the Cleveland Clinic. However, you can control and reduce almost all these risks if you’re proactive.

Getting your annual check-up, following your doctor’s recommendations and taking medications as prescribed can all help lower your risks.

If you have diabetes or are on the verge of becoming diabetic, you can reduce the risk by following these tips says the Cleveland Clinic:

  • Avoid white sugar, white flour and hydrogenated fat.
  • Eat more fiber.
  • Eat some protein with every meal.
  • Control portion size.
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes 5 times a week.
  • Include aerobic, strength, flexibility and balance.

Another major risk factor for dementia is high blood pressure. The Cleveland Clinic recommends following these tips to reduce hypertension:

  • Cut down on salt (less than one teaspoon a day).
  • Check your blood pressure regularly.
  • Keep active.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Take your medication.
  • Aim to keep blood pressure under 120/80 mmHg.

Pillar 4: Sleep & Relaxation

“Rest well.”

Sleep energizes you, improves your mood and your immune system, and may reduce buildup in the brain of an abnormal protein called beta-amyloid plaque, which is associated with Alzheimer’s disease, says the Cleveland Clinic.

Getting 7-8 hours of sleep every night is a must. And to ensure a good night’s sleep, you need a completely dark, quiet, and cool bedroom. You should not be able to see your hand five inches away from your face with the lights out.

Meditation is also a great way to relax and has been shown to reduce cognitive decline. Other ways to reduce stress are saying “no” more often, writing down all the things that bother you, and using imagery to anchor your emotions.

Pillar 5: Mental Fitness

“Use your mind, or lose it.”

You have something called “brain reserve,” which helps your brain adapt and respond to changes and resist damage, says the Cleveland Clinic.

People who continue to learn, embrace new activities, and develop new skills and interests are building and improving their brain reserve. That’s why working at a challenging job, going back to school, or taking classes can all expand your brain reserve.

Other mentally stimulating activities, like crossword puzzles, chess, puzzles, and card games have all been shown to help improve brain health. Even playing electronic “brain games” may help improve your reaction time and problem-solving ability.

Pillar 6: Social Interaction

“Stay connected.”

A rich social network provides sources of support, reduces stress, combats depression and enhances intellectual stimulation. Studies have shown that those with the most social interaction within their community experience the slowest rate of memory decline, says the Cleveland Clinic.

Leading an active social life is the key to protecting your memory. Joining clubs and volunteering are great ways to keep your network alive. Even adopting a pet can improve your brain health.

Pets can calm us down, boost our immunity, improve our heart health, keep us moving, and enhance our social life, says the Cleveland Clinic.

Overall, lifestyle has a profound effect on your brain health. What you eat and drink, how much you exercise, how well you sleep, the way you socialize, and how you manage stress all play important roles in keeping your brain healthy. It’s never too late to make some of these small changes, you can even start today.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive

The post 6 Tips for Powering Up Your Brain appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

The Truth About Brain-Boosting Supplements

This post The Truth About Brain-Boosting Supplements appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

The signs of memory loss can be scary: misplaced keys, forgetting where you parked, a task you suddenly can’t remember, repeating a question over again that was just answered.

Five million Americans are estimated to have Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – a figure that’s projected to grow to 13.9 million by 2060.

To date, there are no drugs that have been shown to prevent or reverse diseases like Alzheimer’s, which is leading many people to seek out questionable treatments with false claims.

One AARP analysis on spending found that 50-plus adults spend more than $93 million a month on six different supplements marketed for brain health.

“The people taking these pills are spending between $20 and $60 a month and flushing dollars down the toilet that could be better spent on things that actually improve their brain health,” says AARP Senior Vice President for Policy Sarah Lock.

Study after study seem to reveal the same conclusions: there’s virtually no good evidence to suggest that brain health supplements can prevent or delay memory lapses, mild cognitive impairment, or dementia in older adults.

In fact, some are even doing more harm than good. Here’s what the science says about taking brain boosting supplements, and what you should do instead.

What the Research Says

The three most popular supplements marketed for memory enhancement are fish oils, B vitamins, and ginkgo biloba extract, made from the dried leaves of the ginkgo tree. But decades of studies on these three supplements have all come up short.

Fish oil pills are probably the best studied and the results are not encouraging. When all the studies are pooled, we find very small improvements in recalling lists of words soon after they’ve been learned, and the effect doesn’t last.

The only encouraging evidence is people with diets high in omega-3s, found typically in fatty fish like salmon, may have a lower risk of dementia. But similar benefits are not linked to omega-3 in pill or supplement form.

Ginkgo biloba extract is another popular brain booster and the research is not hopeful either. In one landmark trial published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers followed more than 3,000 people age 75 or older for six years.

Half were given 120 mg doses of the herb twice a day, while the others took a placebo. The ginkgo did not decrease the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. 

B vitamins are also in question when it comes to improving cognition. A 2015 review of studies found that supplementation with B6, B12, and/or folic acid failed to slow or reduce the risk of cognitive decline in healthy older adults and did not improve brain function in those with cognitive decline or dementia.

The only instances where B vitamins had any significant effect on brain health was in people with B vitamin deficiencies.

Blame Advertisers and Loose Regulation

A 2017 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report analyzed hundreds of ads promoting memory-enhancing supplements online and identified 27 making what seemed to be illegal claims about treating or preventing diseases like dementia.

Supplements are loosely regulated, and you should be extra careful as some even contain undisclosed ingredients or prescription drugs. Several brain boosting supplements should not be taken with medications.

For example, ginkgo biloba should never be paired with blood thinners, blood pressure meds, or SSRI antidepressants.

Supplements that need to be metabolized by organs like your kidneys and liver can compete for limited metabolic function, potentially messing up the levels and performance of your medication.

What Should You Do Instead?

Two things: get active and get on a brain-boosting MIND diet.

Exercise is one of the few things within your control that has shown to protect against cognitive decline. Set a weekly goal of 150 minutes of moderate exercise.

Second, get on the MIND diet, which stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. The diet includes lots of veggies, nuts, whole grains, olive oil, some beans, fish, and poultry, plus a daily glass of wine. A quick Google search and you’ll find all sorts of recipes.

The foods chosen in the MIND diet have all appeared to have brain-protecting effects. The researchers who invented the diet studied almost 1,000 elderly people, and followed them for an average of 4.5 years.

Those with diets most strongly in line with the MIND diet had brains that functioned as if they were 7.5 years younger than those whose diets least resembled this eating style.

A follow-up study showed that the MIND diet also cut their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease in half. So although there seems to be no signs of miracle supplements or drugs for the treatment of cognitive decline just yet, your best bet is still the most simple: stay active and feed your brain good foods.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

— Nilus Mattive
Editor, The Rich Life Roadmap

The post The Truth About Brain-Boosting Supplements appeared first on Daily Reckoning.