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Brain Fitness

Want to save your brain? It starts with lifestyle

By July 30, 2014June 20th, 2023No Comments

Sorry to disappoint you. If you were hoping for a single pill or potion that was going to maintain your brain, don’t hold your breath.

It turns out that we already have the answer to what works. it just involves making some choices and persisting with the plan for the longer term.
That’s right, it takes some effort and work. But we’re talking about the human brain here. The most remarkable organ that is capable of so much. Without a brain we simply do not exist as functioning human beings. Why wouldn’t we choose to do what ever it takes to keep it working well?

I guess we were just hoping for an easy way out, one that doesn’t require much input from us.
The reality is, it doesn’t take much. It’s all about making the best lifestyle choices shown to keep the brain in top working order. Once these are part of your regular routine, there is little effort required to keep it going.

So which lifestyle choices matter?
The ones I have been teaching for the last five years:

•    Healthy nutrition
•    Exercise
•    Mental challenge
•    Staying socially connected

At the recent 2014 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Copenhagen, Dr. Miia Kivipelto from the Swedish Karolinska Institute revealed her findings of  research as part of the FINGER study. Got to love the Finnish sense of humour – FINGER stands for the Finnish Geriatric Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability. What a mouthful, FINGER is much easier to remember.

1260 Finnish participants aged between 60 and 77 at risk of memory loss were randomly assigned to one of two groups.

The first group received an intensive “lifestyle makeover” that included:

  • Nutritional advice
  • Physical exercise with a trainer
  • Brain exercises
  • Social Engagement

Sounds familiar doesn’t it!

The second group received basic health care as appropriate and required.

After two years there was a clear difference of around 40% between the two groups in terms of cognitive performance in regards to specific test of memory, executive function and speed of cognitive processing.
Plus those in the makeover group reported the experience as very positive. The drop out rate over the 2 year period was only 11%.

Now while there is no guarantee that these lifestyle interventions can totally prevent dementia. But it does help keep your brain as healthy as possible. And it may slow down the progression of memory problems and dementia.

Meanwhile Dr. Kivipelto is continuing with her work with a 7 year follow up study including measures of dementia incidence along with biomarkers and brain imaging.

But why wait?
You can start your intensive lifestyle brain makeover TODAY!

Your healthy brain plan includes:

1.    Including healthy food choices: leafy green vegetables , lean meats, three portions of fatty fish each week, deeply pigmented fruits and berries, seeds and nuts and wholegrains.

2.    Exercising every day. This means moving! Ideally 10,000 steps so grab a pedometer or a Fit Bit, a Jawbone Up or other fitness tracker. Plus 20-30 minutes of huffy puffy exercise to get your heart rate up – brisk walking, running, cycling, swimming AND 2-3 more intense focused sessions of exercise each week such as yoga, Pilates or Tai Chi. Dancing is a fabulous way to exercise so why not turn up the music and get boogying.

3.    Challenge your brain with a daily stretch of learning something new: a new language, a musical instrument or 10-15 minutes of an on-line brain training program such as Lumosity, Brain HQ or Mindsparke

4.    Stay connected. This makes the biggest difference to keeping you happy, motivated and accountable to your plan. Even if you live alone it means making the effort to call someone, speak to someone on the phone, and see them for a catch up, a coffee or a meal. Staying connected with the wider world and keeping that sense of curiosity has been found to be a common factor in those who not only live the longest but stay happy and cognitively intact.

Remember, your brain is dynamic and capable of massive change across the lifespan.
Start your intensive lifestyle brain makeover TODAY!


Dr Jenny Brockis

Jenny is a Board-Certified Lifestyle Medicine Physician, author, coach, and workplace health and wellbeing specialist. Her latest book 'Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life' (Wiley) is available online and at all good bookstores.

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