How can I maximize my brain health?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Here's a new pair that's great for your brain: exercise and less salt. This team can slash the fuzzy thinking and memory lapses that come with extra birthdays by two-thirds or more.

A big reason is how good this pair is for your arteries. It keeps them flexible and clog-free, and protects against high blood pressure. Did you know that healthy arteries are important for your brain? They're its fuel lines, constantly delivering the oxygen and blood sugar your grey matter gobbles up -- fully 20% to 25% of what's in your bloodstream. That fuel supply is what keeps your brain humming.

Take that as extra motivation to do your daily 30-minute walk instead of surfing the Web for another half-hour, and to grab a handful of cherry tomatoes instead of salty tortilla chips when you get back.

Don't stop there. Turning this dynamic duo into a terrific trio is even better. Give your brain a regular dose of omega-3s from salmon, trout, walnuts, canola oil and algae-based omega-3 capsules. Omega-3s not only guard against memory decline, they even protect against brain damage after a stroke. Aim for 900 mg every day of DHA, the omega-3 your body likes best.
Developing regular brain-healthy habits is a critical piece in boosting your brain and unleashing its power. You must take your habits seriously, and put habits into your life that serve you, rather than steal from you. Through the years I have come up with an incredibly simple way to boost brain health. It really takes just three strategies:
  • Brain envy. You have to truly want to have a better brain.
  • Avoid anything that hurts your brain: Drugs, alcohol, obesity, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea, depression, negative thinking patterns, excessive stress and a lack of exercise or new learning.
  • Consistently do good behaviors that help your brain: A great diet, new learning, exercise, accurate thinking habits and stress management.
Regarding what can be done to promote brain health including memory, research suggests the importance of physical exercise (as approved by your physician), intellectual stimulation (e.g. reading, games, hobbies etc.), and social connectedness (e.g. social events). Don't forget the importance of basic health habits such as regular checkups with your doctor. Take your medicines as your doctor prescribes them and always check with your doctor before starting any over-the-counter medications, herbs or supplements. Ongoing research suggests that many of your doctor's recommendation for basic heart health (e.g. treating high blood pressure, screening for diabetes) also keeps the brain healthy. Be aware that problems concerning sleep, depression, and constipation can seriously affect memory and talk to your doctor if you are having problems in these areas. Having regular nutritious meals and drinking adequate amounts of water are very important!

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.