Train Your Brain!

Record Searchlight, Sunday, July 3, 2016  Dr. Mehmet Oz, host of “The Dr. Oz Show” and Dr. Mike Roizen, Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. www.

Best Brain Training is to Get Moving: It Cuts Stress, ‘Trash’

For a rock-solid memory and razor-thin brainpower, get up and move! A growing stack of research confirms that working your brain as if it were a core muscle keeps it younger and fitter. Exercise is good for your brain, for a ton of reasons. One biggie: Getting active slashes stress, and taming tension is the single most important thing you can do to slow primary memory loss and sidestep fuzzy thinking. Stress hormones switch off parts of the hippopcampus, a brain area involved with memory, reducing the ability to learn. Over time, high anxiety can tip over into depression, and that messes with memory.

These days, we’re excited about the slew of new research that shows how exercise helps your brain:

  • Better blood flow. Exercise increases circulation in areas of the brain hit hardest by Alzheimer’s disease, says one new study from the University of Kentucky. Volunteers who were the most fit had the best blood flow to regions where Alzheimer’s plaques and tangles happen.
  • More connections. Getting active increases levels of a brain-derived neurotrophic growth factor, which helps brain cells grow and connect. In a recent study from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago of 525 older people, those with the most BDNF showed the smallest declines in mental prowess. This was true even for those signs of Alzheimer’s disease, suggesting that BDNF builds extra connections in the brain that may act as collateral pathways around diseased areas, allowing you to still find your keys your checkbook and enjoy your life.
  • Less brain “trash”. Movement helps your brain use more glutamate, an amino acid that helps neural pathways transmit signals. When excess glutamate piles up between cells, it creates tiny toxic-waste dumps that are linked to a wide variety of brain disorders as well as to dementia. Researchers from Canada’s University of Guelph found that execise can incease the amount of glutamate your brain uses, so there’s less trash mucking up things.

The best save-your-brain plan combines exercise with these other essentials:

  1. Other stress-soothing activities, such as meditation, knitting, or listening to your favorite music;
  2. A healthy eating plan that has you staying away from Five Foods Felons–most saturated and all trans fats, added sugars and sugar syrups, and any grains and good fats like the omega-3s in salmon and wild trout;
  3. Taking supplements containing, specifically DHA omega-3. ALA omega-3 may also be beneficial for your eyes, joints, and brain, and is found in food like walnuts and avocados.

Daily mental challenges, such as learning a language, doing crosswords or Soduku, or brain-stimulating mental gymnastics also are beneficial. Try these activities:

  • Yoga plus meditation: In a recent University of California Los Angeles study  of 25 adults  age 55 and older with a mild memory problems, this combo was even better than brain-training games at improving memory and reducing depression. A weekly class plus 20 minutes of daily practice  was all it took. Yoga can ease stress, reduce inflammation and encourage formation of new brain connections.
  • Gardening, dancing, and other fun stuff: In a new University of Pittsburgh study, scans of the 876 volunteers revealed that the more activity the better it was for the brain. Everything from walking and gardening to dancing and going to the gym kept the brains of older adults bigger, reducing risk for Alzheimer’s by up to 50%.
  • Aerobic exercise: In one recent job study, aerobic activities–a long walk, pedaling your exercise bike while you watch the nightly news, a new class at the gym–bested strength training for stimulating growth of new cells in a brain area involved with learning and memory. In another study of 876 older adults, varying between moderate and intense exercise translated into faster thinking and keener memories. Their brains were comparatively 10 years younger than non-exercisers’ were.