(BPT) – Baby boomers often think of 50 as the new 40. This is especially true in 2014 as the last members of the think-young generation reach the half-century mark. Yet with an unprecedented life expectancy – 78.7 years – for the youngest of the boomers, it is more important than ever to incorporate healthy habits to keep your mind beautiful during the second half of life.
The latest science indicates there are simple, but powerful steps you can still take now to help your brain remain strong, healthy and beautiful as you age. A partnership between the National Center for Creative Aging (NCCA) and the life’sDHA brand, Beautiful Minds: Finding Your Lifelong Potential campaign identifies key lifestyle factors known as the “Four Dimensions of Brain Health” that can positively impact your brain health throughout life – diet and nutrition, physical health, mental health and social well-being.
“Keeping the brain healthy is easier than many people realize. Everyday actions such as maintaining a diet including DHA omega-3 and other important nutrients like vitamin E and lutein, as well as staying active physically, mentally and socially, are all good ways to maintain long-term brain health and cognition,” says Michael Roizen, M.D., co-founder of Real Age Inc., author and advisor to the Beautiful Minds campaign.
Revealing how well Americans today are living out these four dimensions, the 2014 America’s Brain Health Index outlines state-by-state brain health rankings and uncovers areas in which where more brain health activities are needed. Here are a few tips for you to follow to help maintain a healthy brain at every age.
The nourished mind
Many important dietary nutrients help to promote brain health, but recent research indicates a potential link between three key nutrients and a reduced risk of cognitive decline. Those nutrients are DHA omega-3, vitamin E and lutein.
For years, research has demonstrated the benefits of DHA in maintaining brain health, yet most people eating a Western diet don’t get enough DHA. It can be found naturally in fatty fish such as salmon and ocean trout, along with DHA-fortified foods like juice, milk, eggs, tortillas, yogurt, and algal DHA supplements.
A study recently published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) showed that vitamin E may positively impact functional performance among participants with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. However, just over 90 percent of Americans don’t get enough vitamin E from food. Vitamin E can be found in milk, butter, eggs, vegetable oils, nuts, whole grains, wheat germ and dark leafy greens like spinach, and is also available as a supplement.
Additionally, new research on lutein, typically known for its benefits to eye health, has found a correlation between positive cognitive function in healthy older people and a diet rich in lutein. Incorporate lutein superfoods into your diet, such as dark leafy green vegetables like kale, spinach, collards and turnip greens, or egg yolks, peas and corn.
The physically active mind
Research has found associations between physical activity and improved cognitive skills.
Engaging in physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day may encourage new brain cells and connections. Take a walk over lunch, take the stairs instead of the elevator, join a club sporting league, or do something you enjoy outdoors.
Getting a good night’s sleep regularly as well as maintaining a healthy weight can also help to improve your brain health and minimize your risk of diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension. And, if you use tobacco – stop. Research shows, regular tobacco users have a higher risk of rapid cognitive decline, compared to those who do not smoke, as well as raised risk for dementia and stroke.
The mentally engaged mind
Studies have suggested brain cells, much like muscle cells, can grow bigger and stronger with cognitive challenges and stimulation. People who continue to learn new activities and develop new skills and interests are exercising their brains in ways that may help to build connections in the brain, helping to support brain function.
Two-time USA Memory Champion, Nelson Dellis, is a role model for those striving to improve memory and maintain a healthy lifestyle. “I wasn’t born with an extraordinary memory, but through a daily regimen that includes aerobic exercise, nutritious foods and supplements and memory practice, I’ve trained my brain,” Dellis says. “Now I can memorize the order of a shuffled deck of playing cards in just 63 seconds. I’m proof anyone can improve their memory with daily practice if they just try it.”
The socially connected mind
Evidence supports the idea that social connectedness is vital to health, wellness and longevity. Experts theorize that having a rich social network may also help support brain health in a variety of ways, including providing us with better resources and stimulation.
Stay socially connected so you feel like you’re part of something – the workplace, clubs, a network of friends, a religious congregation or a volunteer group. Seek out friends and family to get the emotional support you need to help manage stress.
Be inspired by real Beautiful Minds
To learn more brainy tips, see where your state ranks in America’s Brain Health Index and be inspired by real-life “Beautiful Minds” – people who are living the four dimensions of brain health and accomplishing amazing things in the second half of life – visit www.beautiful-minds.com.