(ARA) – With age comes the inevitable anxiety of mental decline. A common misconception is brain health is predetermined and can’t be changed – it’s the “you’re stuck with what you got” notion. But experts suggest brain health can be positively influenced throughout different stages in life.
A recent state-by-state ranking, America’s Brain Health Index, delivers data on how well Americans are successfully incorporating the four dimensions of brain health – diet and nutrition, physical health, mental health and social well-being – into their daily lives.
The top-ranked state – Maryland – scored highest on the Index because of residents’ performance on a number of health markers, including high consumption of fish rich in DHA and DHA-fortified foods and supplements, as well as a low incidence of Alzheimer’s disease-related deaths. Residents of the states that ranked the lowest (Mississippi and Louisiana) can make adjustments to help get their brains in shape. See where your state ranked at www.beautiful-minds.com.
“Whether we live in the top-ranked states or in the areas that are below average, there are several ways to nurture and engage the mind to keep it healthy throughout our lives,” says Dr. Majid Fotuhi, chairman of the Neurology Institute for Brain Health and Fitness, and assistant professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “All too often I work with patients who need to make only a few lifestyle adjustments to see a marked change in their mental acuity. It’s never too late to take action to improve your brain health.”
Four easy steps to a beautiful mind
Step 1 – Get moving
Engage in physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day to encourage new brain cells and connections to form. Walk, take the stairs instead of the elevator, play sports or do something you enjoy outdoors.
Step 2 – Nourish your body and mind
Aim for a varied diet rich in colorful, fresh fruits and vegetables, washed with the skin on to take full advantage of the nutritional punch. Maximize your intake of DHA, the omega-3 fatty acid that makes up 97 percent of the omega-3s in the brain. Find it in fatty fish (salmon, tuna) or, if you are vegetarian, you can find it in algal DHA-fortified foods and beverages like juice, milk, eggs and in algal DHA supplements, including the Algal-900 DHA and BrainStrong lines found at CVS, Walgreens and Walmart. Find other products with algal DHA at www.lifesdha.com.
Step 3 – Embrace new activities
Commit to lifelong learning, which can take the form of brain-stimulating activities, including reading, creating art, completing crosswords, learning a new language or playing a new instrument. Keep a mentally engaged mind by living with a “use it or lose it” philosophy throughout life.
“The aging process involves increasing physical and emotional change and a heightened search for meaning and purpose,” says Gay Hanna, executive director of the National Center for Creative Aging in Washington, D.C. “Expressing oneself through the creation of art can serve as a powerful way to honor life experiences. Embrace the idea of learning something new to help fuel your creative fire.”
Step 4 – Expand your social network
Stay socially connected so you feel like you’re a part of something. This can include social connections at work, in clubs, with friends and family and through volunteer groups or a religious congregation. Experts theorize that having a rich social network may also help support brain health in a variety of ways, from providing individuals better resources and support, to reducing stress and depression, to enhancing intellectual stimulation.
Inspirational stories of how people keep their minds beautiful can be found throughout the world. In the No. 1 ranked state – Maryland – 75-year-old Ernestine Shepherd transformed herself from an average middle-aged woman with a sedentary lifestyle into the world’s oldest performing female bodybuilder according to Guinness World Records. Shepherd was recently named a 2011 Beautiful Mind, a campaign honoring inspirational adults over 55 who embody the four dimensions of brain health.
“It’s important for people to know that age is just a number and you can get fit for life. Just be determined, dedicated and disciplined. But first and foremost, be positive, confident and filled with spirit,” says Shepherd.
To learn more about brain health and to read inspiring stories from other Beautiful Minds visit www.beautiful-minds.com.