Boosting Brain Function and Memory with Foods and Activities
Today’s society is seemingly always seeking the fountain of youth. And especially as seniors, people seek ways to protect and preserve their brain function and memory. But can certain foods and activities really improve brainpower? Research says yes.
Fellowship Square delves into the healthy habits that can maintain a healthy (and happy!) brain.
According to an article on the Harvard Medical School website, “no single almighty brain food can ensure a sharp brain as you age.” However, the article goes on to state that the “most important strategy is to follow a healthy dietary pattern that includes a lot of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.” It also advises that people should get their protein from plant sources and fish, and choose healthy fats like olive oil or canola oil versus saturated fats.
When it comes to “brain foods,” smart choices are similar to ones that protect the heart and blood vessels, such as:
Green, leafy vegetables —
rich in “brain-healthy” nutrients such as vitamin K, lutein, folate and beta carotene, green leafy vegetables are believed to slow cognitive decline.
Fatty fish —
An abundant source of omega-3 fatty acids, which “have been linked to lower blood levels of beta-amyloid, the protein that forms damaging clumps in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.” For those that don’t enjoy fish, consider an omega-3 supplement or other sources such as avocados, flaxseeds, and walnuts (see more on the latter below).
“A study done by researchers at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that women who consumed two or more servings of strawberries and blueberries each week delayed memory decline by up to two and a half years.”
Tea and coffee —
Good news caffeine lovers! The article states: “In a 2014 study published in The Journal of Nutrition, participants with higher caffeine consumption scored better on tests of mental function. Caffeine might also help solidify new memories, according to other research. Investigators at Johns Hopkins University asked participants to study a series of images and then take either a placebo or a 200-milligram caffeine tablet. More members of the caffeine group were able to correctly identify the images on the following day.”
While most nuts are considered to be a great choice when it comes to the protein and healthy fat combination, walnuts, in particular, get a gold star because they are high in a specific type of omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). “Diets rich in ALA and other omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to lower blood pressure and cleaner arteries. That’s good for both the heart and the brain.”
In addition to filling up on “brain foods,” research backs certain activities such as games and puzzles that challenge and stimulate the brain to help keep it sharp with age. A very recent article on the National Institute on Aging website states that while some factors affecting brain health cannot be changed, there are multiple lifestyle habits that might make a difference. “A growing body of scientific research suggests that the following steps are linked to cognitive health.” These include:
-Maintaining physical health
-Managing high blood pressure
-Eating healthy foods
-Stay physically active
-Keeping the mind active
-Staying connected with social activities
-Reducing risks to cognitive health
Specifically when it comes to the point about “keeping your mind active,” the site notes that “being intellectually engaged may benefit the brain.” Engaging in meaningful activities such as volunteering or hobbies can help people feel “happier and healthier,” while “learning new skills may improve your thinking ability, too.” The article also states that people who “engage in personally meaningful and productive activities with others tend to live longer, boost their mood and have a sense of purpose.”
Fellowship Square encourages seniors to discuss any health and lifestyle changes with their doctors, including the use or addition of any supplements.