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Natural Awakenings Northwest Florida

A New Thought for the New Year: Resolve to Be Good to Your Brain This Year

An estimated 40 to 45 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. Most of us resolve to become physically fit, fiscally fit, reorganized, re-energized and overall healthier, but in that quest we often forget one of the most important aspects of complete health—mental fitness and strength.

A University of Virginia study showed that the average person’s brain peaks at age 22, but the brain has the ability to grow and change at any age, and there are proven ways to get our brain in tip-top shape, and in some cases, make it better than ever.

The key is quality nutrition, sleep, social life and exercise, both physical and mental.

When it comes to brain-boosting foods, it seems research uncovers a new superfood every other day. Over time it’s become clear that many different types of foods are necessary for optimum mental functioning, including fluids, complex carbohydrates, proteins, beneficial fats and specific vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Some of the more important trace elements include vitamin B1, which enables the metabolism of glucose. Potassium, sodium and calcium are used for nerve cell signaling and metabolic reactions and zinc is important for concentration and memory. Iron is essential for supplying oxygen to the brain. In one study, women with sufficient iron in their blood performed cognitive exercises better and faster than women that were iron deficient. After iron supplementation, the formerly anemic women did five to seven times better on their cognitive performance.

Unsaturated fats also protect the brain and buttress brain function, especially the polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids found in fish. Protein heightens attention and produces structural materials and transporters for the brain. Water, of course, is vital for brain function. Studies show that even slight dehydration slows the rate nutrients can enter the brain, producing short-term memory deficits, reasoning difficulties and other cognitive problems.

Sleep supports our cognitive abilities and brain function by buttressing the brain’s ability to quickly process new information and concepts and to organize, store and recall memories.

Physical exercise is extremely beneficial to mental function. The immediate effects are obvious, because it gets the oxygen flowing to the brain. The long-term effects are also impressive. Several studies show people that exercise are less likely to suffer memory problems, and some animal studies even suggest that physical exercise can prompt the growth of new stem cells.

Perhaps the most important aspect of resolving to have the best brain ever this year is vowing to exercise it often. Puzzles, riddles, games and other mental exercises that keep the mind active and challenged can prevent cognitive decline, and the right type of intense brain training exercises can actually make us smarter. 

LearningRx specializes in this type of intense brain training. Personal trainers use fast-paced, game-like exercises to quickly improve cognitive skills like attention, memory, logic and reasoning, auditory and visual processing and processing speed. A recent study showed adults that went through LearningRx brain training improved brain function and gained an average of 11.4 IQ points. While at-home mental exercise programs are generally not intense enough to produce that type of gain, if we push our brain with tough mental challenges, it can make a difference.

So as we ponder your New Year’s Resolutions, let us resolve to treat it well. The brain’s amazing ability to grow and change throughout life means instead of growing old, the brain can simply grow if we continue to challenge it through training and exercise and nurture it with quality nutrition, sleep, exercise and friendships.

 

The Pensacola LearningRx Center is located at 4300 Bayou Blvd., Ste. 34. For more information or to schedule a free brain-training demonstration, call 850-466-4999.

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