Dementia Sucks: Keep Your Brain Strong With These 10 Things

by Paul Michael on 15 April 2014 1 comment

The brain is the most powerful processor in the world. Weighing in at an average of just three pounds, your brain uses 20% of the total oxygen in your body. It generates enough energy to power a 20-watt light bulb. And it can process information at around 270 mph. It is, to say the least, an astonishing part of the human body. But it needs to be taken care of. Treat it right and feed it well, and it will look after you. From vitamins to oils and even juggling, here are 10 easy ways to strengthen your brain. (See also: Natural Ways to Change Your Brain and Be Happier)

1. Indulge in Hot Chocolate

The next time you feel a little guilty about your nightly cup of cocoa or hot chocolate, remind yourself that Harvard researchers believe it to be very beneficial for your brain. It seems as though two cups a day of the delicious chocolate beverage improves blood flow to the working areas of the brain. The study was done at Harvard Medical School in Boston and recruited 60 people (with an average age of 73) who did not have dementia. Each participant was given two cups of hot chocolate per day. After 30 days, the results were significant. Not only was blood flow increased, but results on memory tests vastly improved — from 167 seconds down to 116. Of course, there will be side effects of drinking a sugary drink twice a day, so look into low-fat, low-sugar options. (See also: 15 Reasons to Eat More Chocolate)

2. Get Your Fish Oils

Many of us take fish oil and omega-3 supplements regularly as they are a good way to lower triglycerides. But that old wives tale about fish being good for your brain is not a myth at all. DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, is a polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acid found in fish like tuna, trout, and mackerel, and it is essential nutrition for the brain and eyes. Currently dieticians recommend at least two servings of fatty fish per week, but more if you really want to get the benefits. And if you just can't stomach fish, there are capsules that are guaranteed never to repeat on you. Those fishy burps are a thing of the past.

3. Learn to Juggle

If you thought juggling was just for circus performers and party tricks, think again. Juggling is an exercise requiring excellent hand-eye coordination, and your brain is working overtime to keep all the balls or bowling pins in the air. Scientists recently took 24 non-jugglers and trained half to juggle. After three months, the new jugglers had an increase in gray matter in the areas of the brain involving visual and motor skills. So, long story short… learn to juggle, and you'll impress more than just a few friends at the next get-together.

4. Get More Sleep

Easier said than done for most of us, but it's essential for a better brain. Yes, it's absolutely vital to rest your body with six to eight hours of sleep every night, but it's also important for brain function. Your brain does not shut down like a computer when you sleep; dreams are a clear indication of that. But sleeping improves the ability to make connections between concepts that would otherwise stay apart. When someone tells you to "sleep on a problem," they're giving you good advice. After sleep, people are 33% more likely to create connections among seemingly unrelated ideas (advertising creatives, take note).

5. Take Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is a very useful gift from Mother Nature. It's used in Thai food, it's great as a skin lotion or make-up remover, and it can even support thyroid function. But now it has been revealed that four tablespoons of coconut oil taken daily can improve brain function and possibly prevent Alzheimer's. The key to this research lies in ketone bodies, an alternative fuel for your brain that your body actually creates while digesting coconut oil. Ketones are a byproduct of the body's process to convert fat (not glucose) into energy. A primary source of these ketones are the medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) found in — you've guessed it — coconut oil. Time to stock up.

6. Top Up Vitamin D Levels

It seems that vitamin D is becoming something of a wonder-supplement. We are told to take it to prevent cancer, depression, and cardiovascular disease, and to boost the immune system and, of course, bone health. Now, you can add increased brain function to the growing list. Studies have shown that there are receptors for vitamin D throughout the central nervous system and hippocampus. And these same studies proved that people with lower-than-average vitamin D levels suffered from decreased cognitive function and information-processing speed. If you didn't have a reason to stock up on vitamin D capsules, this should sway you.

7. Play Mind Games

No, not the kind that men and women have been playing on each other since the dawn of time. Actual mind games, like Sudoku, lateral thinking puzzles, crosswords, brainteasers, and even chess are excellent ways to keep the brain fit and healthy. It's a case of use it or lose, and considering how much you have to lose, it should be paramount that you put aside at least 15 minutes of every day to think. There are apps and websites, like Lumosity, that can make this very easy for you. Play the games, and you can avoid Alzheimer's and other degenerative brain disorders. (See also: 10 Apps That Make You Smarter, Stronger, Happier)

8. Take Vitamin B12

Along with vitamin D, it's also worth investing in vitamin B12. It's a popular supplement for vegetarians and vegans, as B12 is primarily found in meats, fish, and dairy products. Patients suffering from dementia have been found to have high levels of homocysteine in their blood, and B12 can naturally lower homocysteine levels. It's also good for heart health and energy too, so what's there to lose?

9. Learn to Play Music

While it is no easy task to just pick up a guitar and belt out a tune, or sit at a piano and channel Mozart, playing music has significant benefits to brain function. No one is suggesting that you invest in lessons and become the next big music star, but even buying a cheap acoustic guitar and practicing chords for 15 or 30 minutes per day can have positive effects on the brain. If you have children at age seven or under, get them interested in music now, through school, or on their own volition. The benefits are even greater if you start young. (See also: The Perks of Learning the Guitar)

10. Put Blueberries and Almonds to Work

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says blueberries and almonds are two of the best foods you can eat to boost brain power. Blueberries are very high in antioxidants, and even frozen, they work wonders. Almonds are a great source of omega-3 acids, antioxidants, and vitamin E. Perhaps the easiest way to get both daily is to pop some onto your breakfast cereal or yogurt every morning. They taste great, and they're great for brain function. What better way to start the day?

What are you doing to strengthen your brain? Exercise it a bit in comments!

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laurie

YAY for number 10! As I'm reading this article, I'm enjoying my go-to breakfast of low fat organic vanilla yogurt with 1/2 cup of blueberries and 1/4 cup of almonds. Glad to know it helps my brain as well as my waistline and energy level!