Nov 17 2009

4 Steps to Improve Brain Function

Brain Function

Research has shown that there are four main cornerstones to healthy brain function: physical exercise, mental exercise, healthy nutrition, and proper stress management.

1. Physical Exercise

Physical exercise can be a difficult cornerstone to work on, especially since it can be overwhelming if you are not currently living an active lifestyle. If you are not currently partaking in an exercise program, be certain to speak with your doctor about whether or not it is safe for you partake in regular exercise. Once you have received the approval from your doctor, do not turn into a weekend warrior. Instead, start setting small, manageable goals, such as taking a 15 minute walk. Do exercise that you enjoy. Focus on cardiovascular exercise during times when you cannot do both cardiovascular and strength training exercises.

2. Mental Exercise

Exercising your brain can be a lot of fun, especially if you let your curiosity pave the road. Learn a new fact or try a new activity at least once a day. Ensure that you partake in activities that you enjoy so that you will stick with them. Do not worry about whether or not you are good at them. The idea is to challenge your mind, not to win a contest. If you enjoy playing games, try out crossword puzzles, sudoku, and chess. These are great games to challenge your mind.

3. Healthy Nutrition

Healthy nutrition is the cornerstone not only to the health of your body, but also to the health of your brain. The best thing you can do to work on eating properly is to add in lots of leafy green vegetables to your diet. Plan your meal around your vegetables. After you have chosen which vegetables you will be eating, choose your fruit, protein, dairy and grains. Be certain, though, that you learn what a proper portion size is to ensure that you are not overeating. It can be easy to eat a whole chicken breast, when in reality, a portion is only 3 ounces and is about the size of a deck of cards. Also, add in cold water fish to ensure that you are getting enough omega-3 fatty acids. Tuna, halibut, sardines, salmon, mackerel, and herring are excellent sources of this fatty acid. Lastly, focus on eating foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. If it comes in a box, bag, or shrink wrapped, try not to eat it. This will make it easy to choose foods with a low glycemic index and packed full of vitamins and minerals.

4. Stress Management

Managing stress is easier said than done. However, there are things you can do to make managing stress a little bit easier. For starters, get plenty of restful sleep each night. Also, be certain that you maintain your social connections by keeping in touch with your friends and family, even if you only send a quick e-mail. Yoga and meditation are calming activities for some people, while others prefer to soak in a tub and read a good book. Make sure that you spend some time each week relaxing in whatever method works best for you.

Nov 17 2009

15 Ways to Keep Your Brain Healthy

Healthy Brain

Instead of wishing for a better memory and improved cognitive function, start to do something about it and improve the health of your brain with these tips.

1. Eat some brain food.

Dark chocolate is brain food, so eat a portion of it on a regular basis. Dark chocolate has been shown to increase the dopamine in the brain, thereby improving memory.

2. Write an outline of your last outing.

Go on a guided tour of a park, museum, or other place that you find to be interesting. When you get home, try to write an outline of what you experienced. Be as detailed as possible. This memory activity will train your brain to remember more.

3. Memorize some lyrics.

Listen to a song that you have not previously memorized and try to memorize the lyrics. Play the song over and over until you have successfully memorized all of the words. This will help your brain to listen better and will improve your memory by releasing acetylcholine.

4. Work on your peripheral vision.

Stare right ahead into the distance and try to memorize everything that you see, including what you see in your peripheral vision. After this exercise, make a list of everything that you saw. If possible, stare at the same things again and try to notice anything that you were not previously aware of and add it to your list. This exercise will increase acetylcholine, thereby improving your memory.

5. Pick up a musical instrument.

Lots of people intend to learn to play a musical instrument, but life gets so busy that it is not usually a priority. Now is the time to make learning to play a musical instrument a priority because it will help to strengthen your brain.

6. Put some puzzles together.

Jigsaw puzzles are good for more than a social evening. Jigsaw puzzles that are at least 500 pieces can exercise your brain, improve your cognitive function, and increase the accuracy of your visual judgments.

7. Turn down the volume.

Keep the volume of the radio and television at a conversational level. You may be tempted to raise the volume to make the words easier to hear, but keep the volume down so improve your brain’s ability to interpret sound. Once you are able to make out all of the words that are spoken at this level without any problems, turn the volume down even lower. This exercise will not only help your brain function, but will make you a better conversational listener.

8. Toss a ball.

Keep your brain healthy by challenging your coordination and visual acuity. This task is easily accomplished by tossing a ball and catching it. Once you can do this easily with one ball, add another ball and start to learn to juggle.

9. Be competitive with yourself.

Take an activity that you enjoy to a higher level, such as knitting, putting together jigsaw puzzles, or completing crossword puzzles. Get competitive with yourself to see how quickly you can accomplish the task or how accurately you can work. This will keep your brain constantly in a learning mode.

10. Become ambidextrous.

Start learning to use your non-dominant hand. Be certain that you only perform safe tasks, such as brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand or using the mouse with your non-dominant hand. Do not perform dangerous activities, such as driving or using a steak knife with your non-dominant hand until you are truly ambidextrous.

11. Make fish the new white meat.

Add fatty fish, such as salmon, to your diet. Eat it regularly to obtain enough of the fish oil to improve your brain’s cognitive function.

12. Exercise your body.

If you want to have a healthy brain, you must also have a healthy body. Keeping your body healthy will improve overall circulation, including circulation to your brain. This can help your brain to stay healthy and create new brain cells.

13. Opt to walk on uneven surfaces.

Walking on uneven surfaces challenges your brain’s equilibrium and will improve your balance. Be careful when you first start with this exercise and ensure that you are always taking proper safety precautions.

14. Get adequate sleep.

The body needs rest to repair itself. This is also true of the brain. People that do not sleep enough tend to have trouble with their memory and learning new information, so get a good night of sleep before you start your day to keep your brain at its peak performance.