We spoke to the experts at Baycrest Health Sciences to learn more about what you can do to keep your brain sharp as you age.
This first tip may seem obvious (we know stress is bad for health), but it’s an important one.
Ballroom dancing is one of the best workouts for brain health because it combines physical exercise, cognitive engagement (complicated steps requiring constant problem-solving), and social engagement. Make sure you’re eating enough complex carbs, such as whole grains, to keep your brain in top shape. A study conducted by Baycrest showed that a diet high in salt, combined with little exercise, was especially detrimental to the cognitive performance of older adults. A growing body of evidence is proving that older adults who volunteer are both happier and healthier. Art awakens memories, encourages dialogue and inspires the sharing of ideas – whether you’re creating a piece of art or simply appreciating a painting on the wall.
Bonus Quiz: Do you have as much knowledge as a wise old elder or is your brain filled with reality shows and useless information?
Sign Up & WinWin The BestEnter for a chance to be 1 of 4 lucky readers to win all prize packs! Best Health is a health & wellness magazine from renowned publisher Reader’s Digest that brings an inspiring voice to today’s contemporary Canadian woman. The information contained in this blog is offered in good faith and represents only the author's current understanding of best therapeutic practices.
Now, your daughter is a little too young for straw drinking, but you can teach her cup drinking first. All parents want their children to be able to blow out their birthday candles.  While most children pick up this skill naturally, others need a little more help. On November 1, three lucky commenters will be randomly selected to receive a $25 gift certificate to our online store. Oral motor therapy works on the oral skills necessary for proper speech and feeding development. I would begin by calling the pharmacy to see if your child’s medication comes in liquid or chewable form, which would be easier to take. If your pharmacist tells you that the pill must be swallowed whole, plan B is to teach your child how to swallow the pill. Have him take a deep breath first, then drink some water to lubricate the tongue and throat. Mealtime is instantly more appealing when kids can dunk their food for added flavor and fun. Becoming forgetful is often regarded as a normal part of getting older, but it’s possible to maintain your quick wit and intelligence at any age.
One principle to remember is that if you don't sufficiently challenge your brain with new, surprising information, it eventually begins to deteriorate. By that I mean to say, the fundamental skills that you apply in your profession or in your everyday life are things you master, and you're doing them without thought.
What research into brain plasticity shows us, however, is that by providing your brain with appropriate stimulus, you can counteract this degeneration. Occupational complexity or mental activities demanding thought processing and independent judgment, have been correlated with higher performance on measures of intellectual flexibility, memory, verbal abilities, fluency, and visual spatial measures in aging. In addition, one study revealed that craft activities such as quilting and knitting were associated with decreased odds of having mild cognitive impairment.4 Another study, published in 2014, found that taking part in "cognitively demanding" activities was also beneficial. This would include learning to quilt or take digital photography, which researchers found enhance memory function in older adults.5 In addition to being mentally stimulating, different, and challenging, such creative activities often allow you to become fully immersed in the moment to the extent that your worries fade away. Engaging in mentally absorbing tasks and hobbies allows you to experience flow and have a seriousness of purpose with which you engage in a task.
If you’re not quite ready to take up piano lessons or knitting, you may still be able to bolster the growth of new brain cells by challenging your mind. This game must be played with at least one other person, so it makes for a fun social activity while also improving spatial relation skills, visual discrimination and strategic thinking. Lumosity’s personalized “brain workouts” help boost memory, attention, problem solving, and more.

If you decide to try brain games, ideally it would be wise to invest at least 20 minutes a day, but no more than five to seven minutes is to be spent on a specific task. The only downside to brain games is that it may become just another "task" you need to fit into an already busy day. Nancy Linde's 399 Games, Puzzles, and Trivia Challenges is a book with nearly 400 games designed to improve neurogenesis, or the formation of new brain cells. Read a few news articles and give yourself a weekly or daily quiz to see how much you remembered. When it comes to brain function, stress is an important factor that can have a direct effect. An inspirational talk can help you get into a more relaxed, positive mood, which may, in turn, help you think better, be more creative and communicate better with others. Along with mental challenges and exercise, the foods you eat – and don't eat – play a crucial role in your memory.
For instance, curry, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, and walnuts contain antioxidants and other compounds that protect your brain health and may even stimulate the production of new brain cells. I prefer krill oil to fish oil, as krill oil also contains astaxanthin, which not only protects the omega-3 fats from oxidation, but also is particularly important to support brain health.
In addition, there is a close connection between abnormal gut flora and abnormal brain development, and just as you have neurons in your brain, you also have neurons in your gut -- including neurons that produce neurotransmitters like serotonin, which is also found in your brain and is linked to mood. Along with avoiding sugar, one of the best ways to support gut health is to consume beneficial bacteria. If you really want to jumpstart your brain health, you might want to also try intermittent fasting. As part of a healthy lifestyle, however, I prefer an intermittent fasting schedule that simply calls for limiting your eating to a narrower window of time each day. Sleep is also known to enhance your memories and help you "practice" and improve your performance of challenging skills.
Plasticity occurs when neurons are stimulated by events, or information, from the environment.
Furthermore, certain forms of long-term potentiation, a neural process associated with the laying down of learning and memory, can be elicited in sleep, suggesting synaptic connections are strengthened while you slumber. As with most aspects of health, it’s not one factor but many that create or destroy a healthy brain.
Read on for seven brain health tips and be sure to check out The Brain Project, a fundraising initiative taking place in Toronto this summer.
According to a recent scientific review paper, led by the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences, people with chronic stress and anxiety in their lives may be at increased risk for developing depression and even dementia.
Fortunately, it is never too late to change your lifestyle and begin making more health-conscious decisions. Amy Clements-Cortes, senior music therapist, music can help to elevate your mood, relieve pain, reduce stress, and stay sharp and social. Just as physical inactivity allows your muscles to atrophy, cognitive inactivity does the same to your brain. One of the things that happens across this period is that you go from a period of the acquisition of abilities to largely using those abilities that have been acquired earlier in life. College professors, pilots, physicians, musicians, and architects have been studied as high cognitive activity groups.
In order to improve brain function, it seems the task must be important to you, or somehow meaningful or interesting — it must hold your attention.
It involves placing cards in grids according to simple rules that require complex moves and thoughts on your part. It has more than 40 games that are actually fun, so it makes training your brain a part of your day you’ll look forward to.
Each puzzle is designed to get your brain thinking in new ways and targets cognitive functions such as logical thought, language, and attention. This will not only help you become more informed about current events but will also boost your ability to store information and concentrate. For example, one recent animal study found that higher levels of stress hormones can speed up short-term memory loss in older adults.7 In a nutshell, the stress hormone cortisol has a corrosive effect that, over time, wears down the synapses responsible for memory storage and processing.

In the TED talk above, psychologist and author Shawn Achor discusses the happy secret to better work.
Ratey, a psychiatrist who wrote the book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, there’s overwhelming evidence that exercise produces large cognitive gains and helps fight dementia. One in particular, called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), triggers numerous other chemicals that promote neural health, and directly benefits cognitive functions, including learning. In a separate one year-long study, individuals who engaged in exercise were actually growing and expanding the brain's memory center one to two percent per year, where typically that center would have continued to decline in size. Fresh vegetables are essential, as are healthy fats and avoiding sugar and grain carbohydrates. Increasing your animal-based omega-3 fat intake and reducing consumption of damaged omega-6 fats (think processed vegetable oils) in order to balance your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio is also important.
Mary Newport, just over two tablespoons of coconut oil (about 35 ml or 7 level teaspoons) would supply you with the equivalent of 20 grams of medium-chain triglycerides (MCT), which is indicated as either a preventative measure against degenerative neurological diseases or as a treatment for an already established case.
You can use a probiotic supplement for this, but I'm particularly fond of using fermented vegetables, because they can deliver extraordinarily high levels of beneficial bacteria. Contrary to popular belief, the ideal fuel for your brain is not glucose but ketones, which is the fat that your body mobilizes when you stop feeding it carbs and introduce coconut oil and other sources of healthy fats into your diet.
By restricting your eating to a 6-8 hour window, you effectively fast 16-18 hours each day.
In fact, a single night of sleeping only four to six hours can impact your ability to think clearly the next day.
However, sleep and sleep loss modify the expression of several genes and gene products that may be important for synaptic plasticity.
Just like your physical health, your mental health will flourish with a balanced healthy lifestyle of eating right, exercising, tending to stress, stimulating your mind and, last but not least, sleeping well. Proceeds from the art and sculptures sold at The Brain Project will support care and research into Alzheimer’s and age-related dementia.
Carol Greenwood, a senior scientist at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute, says we need healthy or normal insulin function in the brain—it’s a component of learning and memory processing. Research shows that those who exercise have a greater volume of gray matter in the hippocampal region of their brains, which is important for memory.
To get the most out of your workouts, I recommend a comprehensive program that includes high-intensity interval exercise, strength training (especially super slow workouts), stretching, and core work, along with walking about 10,000 steps a day. A one-day fast can help your body to "reset" itself and start to burn fat instead of sugar. The process of brain growth, or neuroplasticity, is believed to underlie your brain's capacity to control behavior, including learning and memory. Individual articles are based upon the opinions of the respective author, who retains copyright as marked. Today marks the 30th anniversary of Fox's "Marathon of Hope," an epic run across Canada to raise money for cancer research.If you're not familiar with Fox's story, you should be. Hence, deterioration and progressive memory decline was considered a more or less inevitable part of aging. Further, it will help you to reduce your overall calorie consumption, which promotes brain cell growth and connectivity. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice.
It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from the research and experience of Dr. Consuming too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure, which is the major cause of cardiovascular disease. Mercola encourages you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified health care professional. If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition, consult your health care professional before using products based on this content.

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