"How to Keep Your Brain Healthy at Any Age"
healthwise Stay Sharp! How to Keep Your Brain Healthy at Any Age J ust a few decades ago, scientists believed that a decline in mental agility was an inevitable side effect of the aging process. Now some exciting new studies are turning this assumption on its head (pun intended), proving that even in advanced years, our brains can continue to thrive—as long as we care for them properly. It happens to all of us now and then. Reaching for a set of keys and suddenly realizing we have no idea where we left them. Meeting an acquaintance at the grocery store and coming up empty when we try to recall her name. Picking up a non- speed-dial phone only to have a number we once knew by heart escape us. 44 SYSCO TODAY Summer 2007 If you’ve ever referred to one of these experiences as a “senior moment,” you’re not alone. Most of us do, because we share the assumption that mental functions such as memory naturally degenerate with age. However, some bold new scientific studies are demonstrating that a few simple lifestyle changes can help you keep your mental edge—whether you’re 17 or 77. Shake Things Up While daily routines may be familiar and comfortable, they do nothing to stimulate our mental facilities. Trying something new forces the brain to create new neural pathways and connections in response to the new experience you’ve created. This can be as simple as taking a different route to work or rearranging your desk—or as involved as picking up a hobby you’ve never tried or even learning a new language. Get Puzzled The next time you have a few free moments, give the TV a rest and challenge your noggin to a meaty crossword puzzle or word game, or try Sudoku—a popular logic-based number placement puzzle that’s gained considerable popularity in recent years. Take in Some Food for Thought Recent studies have shown that certain “super foods” can increase your chances of maintaining a healthy brain as time goes by. These include: A • ntioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables: blueberries, red peppers, apples, spinach • Foods dense in vitamin E: nuts, soybean oil, Get Moving wheat germ Exercise not only makes for a healthy body—it • Whole-grain foods: oatmeal, whole-wheat bread benefits the brain as well. Scientists have shown (read the label carefully), brown rice that regular, moderate exercise—such as taking • Foods rich in folic acid: leafy green vegetables, a daily 30-minute walk or one-mile run—can citrus fruits, dried beans prevent oxidative damage, a consequence of • Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids: aging that is thought to contribute to memory walnuts, flax, fatty fish such as salmon and sardines loss and other forms of mental decline. Summer 2007 SYSCO TODAY 45