Whether it's becoming a Sudoku champion or remembering the name of someone you just met, everyone probably wishes they could muster up a little extra brain power. There are no quick fixes when it comes to improving (or preventing the decline of) cognitive functions like memory, info processing, or critical thinking, but there are some very basic steps you can take to keep your brain as healthy as possible.
"A lot of things that should be recommended for reducing dementia are actually just common sense and work for general health too," says Dr. Joe Verghese, professor of neurology and medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. "The challenge is getting people to do it." Eating right, exercising, and staying mentally active top the list of brain-health boosters, but they aren't the only options.
The hippocampus – the part of the brain critical to the formation of long-term memory – typically shrinks as we age, and this can contribute to memory impairment and dementia. Fortunately, exercise (which is already great for our health) may actually reverse this shrinking. One study found the effects of exercise increased hippocampus volume by an amount equal to what older people lose in one to two years. "Studies have shown that exercise improves blood flow to the brain, and it also stimulates production of nerve growth factors," says Verghese. Even just six minutes of exercise post-learning can help boost memory.
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