Our region is full of fit minds: Residents in Maryland and DC have the healthiest brains in the US, while Virginia ranks 22nd, according to the 2011 America’s Brain Health Index. Want to give your brain an extra boost? Here are six things you can do to improve memory and fend off diseases like Alzheimer’s:
Mix up your workouts
Changing things up when it comes to exercise is already known to be good for your body, but it’s also good for your brain. If you’re a kickboxer on Mondays and a yogi by Wednesday, you’re in luck. “Physical activity is most effective for the brain when you do a variety of exercises,” says Dr. Constantine Lyketsos, director of the Memory and Alzheimer’s Treatment Center at The Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Crossword puzzles, Sudoku, Scrabble, and reading can all help the brain. Lyketsos says he especially likes games that involve problem solving. “Games will keep you thinking in a broad, focused and active way,” Lyketsos says. “Games help train the brain and make it better.”
Whether it’s learning to play a musical instrument, studying a new language, or learning how to cook, mental stimulation is the key to a healthy brain. “The use it or lose it philosophy really applies to the brain,” Lyketsos says. “Learning to dance is great because you get mental stimulation from learning the steps and the physical activity from moving.”
Being social is important for premium brain health. Dr. R. Scott Turner, director of the Memory Disorders Program at Georgetown University, says we don’t know exactly why just yet, but studies have shown that people who are more social are less likely to get dementia. “It’s important to grow and maintain strong social supports and a social network of family and friends,” Turner says.
See a dentist
“Chronic infection or inflammation such as gingivitis may increase the risk of a stroke, heart attack, and dementia,” Turner says. By maintaining good dental and gum hygiene, you can keep away many illnesses.
Take a multi-vitamin
After age 50, the body absorbs vitamins from food less efficiently, Turner says. Vitamin B12 is very important for brain health. Taking a multivitamin can give the body and brain the extra boost it needs.