New research reveals the simple lifestyle tweaks that can turn back your “cognitive clock,” making your brain years younger. Here are the six easy tricks!
Take the stairs.
Just 10 minutes daily of easy exercise boosts recall by strengthening connections between memory-managing regions of your brain. Enhance the effect by picking a workout that increases muscle strength in your legs, like climbing stairs or cycling. In one study of female twins, those with the strongest legs had 18 percent less memory loss over 10 years — the equivalent of a brain that’s 3.3 years younger. Explains neurologist Kenneth S. Kosik, MD, “By regulating blood pressure, cholesterol and blood-glucose levels, exercise — especially the kind that builds muscle — helps reduce three key risk factors for Alzheimer’s.”
Breathe this way.
Try this for a few minutes a day: Breathe in and out through your left nostril (by blocking your right nostril with your thumb), then breathe in and out through your right nostril (by blocking your left nostril with your finger). This relaxing exercise boosts recall by reducing the chronic stress that’s linked to memory blips, says women’s health expert Nancy Lonsdorf, MD. “Plus, breathing from the left nostril activates the brain’s right hemisphere, which manages spatial memory, while breathing from the right nostril activates the brain’s left hemisphere, which is in charge of verbal recall.”
Regularly reading anything — from novels to Woman’s World — reduces your risk of memory problems by 32 percent, according to a study at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. Boost the benefit by reading out loud, urges Dr. Kosik. “Reading words while hearing them helps your brain process information more deeply, making it stick over the long-term.”
Serve up strawberries.
These juicy berries are rich in lignans, plant-based estrogens that mimic our own female hormones. “Estrogen is the ‘master regulator’ in the female brain,” explains nutrition expert Lisa Mosconi, PhD. “Declining estrogen levels during menopause can lead to changes that trigger memory lapses.” Fortunately, phytoestrogens help counter this decline, keeping recall sharp. In fact, women who eat the most lignan-rich foods are 50 percent less likely to develop dementia than those who eat the least. Other delicious sources of lignans include chickpeas, peaches, and green beans.
Sprinkle on rosemary.
“A unique blend of antioxidant compounds in rosemary reduces inflammation and increases blood flow to the brain, improving concentration and memory,” says Mosconi. Regularly consuming this fragrant herb is one reason residents of Acciaroli, Italy, have one of the lowest rates of Alzheimer’s in the world. Says Mosconi, “I recommend using it in place of salt — I always add rosemary whenever I make roasted chicken!”
Enjoy baby greens.
Folks who eat one daily serving of lettuce, kale, spinach, and other leafy greens have brains that are 11 years younger than those who skip them. “These vegetables are rich in folate, a B vitamin that lowers homocysteine, an amino acid that contributes to memory loss,” explains Dr. Lonsdorf. “Folate also triggers the release of serotonin, which protects memory and makes you happier!”
Our Expert Panel
Kenneth S. Kosik, MD, author of Outsmarting Alzheimer’s ($10.87, Amazon), is co-director of the Neuroscience Research Institute at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Nancy Lonsdorf, MD, is the author of The Healthy Brain Solution for Women Over Forty ($17.95, Amazon) and an award-winning expert in Ayurvedic medicine. Learn more at DrLonsdorf.com.
Lisa Mosconi, PhD, author of Brain Food: The Surprising Science of Eating for Cognitive Power ($20.84, Amazon), is associate director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medical College.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.
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