We know that some senior citizens are able to live into their eighties and nineties with their minds sharp and their bodies still spry. Will we be among the lucky ones? Will our brains stay mentally sharp as we age?
Or will we be among those who fill nursing homes because our minds can no longer function properly?
The good news is that most of us will be able to keep our cognitive faculties as we age unless we develop Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, or diabetes.
As long as the brain itself remains healthy, older people can maintain their ability to think and remember, although it may take them longer to think and remember than it used to.
And in some forms of mental skills, seniors are actually able to outperform much younger people! For example, older people can perform better on tasks that require good judgment.
By studying the health habits of senior citizens who have reached old age with their minds and bodies intact, scientists have discovered some of the factors that seem to be associated with better mental functioning in old age.
There is some evidence that people who have a diet high in antioxidants have lower rates of getting Alzheimer's. Eating at least five servings of fresh fruits and vegetables every day seems to provide a protective factor to the aging brain. Those fruits and vegetables that have strong, bright colors tend to be very high in brain protecting antioxidants.
In animal experiments, blueberries have been found to be particularly strong in protecting brain cells from aging. Whether or not this ability to protect brain cells will extend to humans is not known yet, but why not try adding blueberries to your diet in the meantime?
Researches have discovered that there is a lower rate of Alzheimer's disease among people who eat a lot of cold water fish such as salmon. It's not known for certain whether taking nutritional supplements will help prevent brain degeneration, but there is some evidence that some vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements seem to have a protective effect on the brain. For example, a higher intake of Folic acid is associated with a lower incidence of Alzheimer's disease.
It's also important to learn bout which fats are good and which fats are bad for your heart and your brain.
Most North Americans eat far too much of the bad fats--those that are saturated or hydrogenated, and they do not eat enough of the good fats their brain and body needs, particularly the Omega-3's found in such foods as salmon and flax seed.
Try to include lots of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet, especially those that are brightly colored such as tomatoes, spinach, and berries. These foods are high in special chemicals called antioxidants, which help protect your brain cells from damage.
A good quality vitamin and mineral supplement may help promote brain health. Based on the results of several long term studies, the following amounts may prove helpful:
500 mg of Vitamin C,
400 IU of Vitamin E,
400 mcg. of Folic acid,
and a well balanced Vitamin B complex taken daily.
Another life factor that is very damaging to brain cells is chronic stress. The chemical changes produced in your body when you are under chronic stress damage every system of the body, including your brain. If your life is currently very stressful, find ways to change your life circumstances where possible, and learn to change the way you react to these situations.
To reduce the impact of stress, practice techniques of mind and body relaxation such as daily meditation and prayer. Burn off some of the negative effects of stress on your body by committing to regular exercise.
Develop a circle of trusted friends and be sure to include some fun in your life.
The basics of looking after your brain involve common sense habits. If you want to keep your brain healthy, make it a priority to eat well, exercise regularly, and get sufficient sleep.
Your brain, as well as the rest of your body will benefit from following these tips. In addition, this strategy will improve your mood and outlook.
Although in life there are no guarantees, by following these common sense guidelines, you can increase your chances of surviving into your senior years with your mind in good shape.
This article was written by Royane Real, author of the book "How You Can Be Smarter" which is full of techniques you can use to improve your learning ability, memory, and creativity. Read more self help and self improvement articles at her new site at [http://www.royane.com]
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