The best ways to keep your brain in shape


Special to the Recorder

As the large Baby Boomer generation moves into its golden years, we’re seeing more focus in the media on diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, which primarily affect seniors. While neurological change happens to your brain throughout your life, it only takes a few positive steps to better your brain health.

Listen to Music

Just listening to music helps your brain stay sharp. Specific types of music can stimulate memory and emotion. In one study, children with attention deficit disorder who were exposed to Mozart’s music while undergoing biofeedback training showed a marked improvement in social skills, concentration, mood and impulsive activity. In addition, research from the University of San Antonio indicates a promising new development in using music to recover speech fluency in stroke victims.

Learn Something New

Expanding your knowledge outside your current areas of expertise can boost your brain power. Take a course in a subject you know nothing about. Lifelong education is proven to reduce the chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Stay Social

Having good friends and a supportive family brings many brain health advantages.

Studies show people with a good social network, especially seniors, have enhanced neurological fitness as well as an overall better quality of life. Staying social can stave off problems like depression and anxiety. Humans are meant to interact with each other, so step away from the computer more often and engage in face-to-face communication.

Get Enough Sleep

Although your brain doesn’t shut off when you sleep, it does require this down time to regenerate. Researchers believe stress hormones increase with sleep deprivation. And not enough sleep can make you more susceptible to the effects of stress

Get Active

Along with the rest of your body, exercising does wonders for your brain. By staying physically active, you protect your brain from environmental toxins. Exercise also slashes stress chemicals that can damage a variety of brain structures, including areas key to short-term memory function. Moreover, working out keeps your heart pumping much needed oxygen and glucose to your brain. The National Academy of Sciences has published research revealing that people who are physically inactive increase their risk of Alzheimer’s by 250 percent!

Eat Brain Food

Your brain is quickly affected by what you eat. As a large portion of your brain is fat, get the right amounts of Omega 3 fatty acids, found in many species of fish like salmon, tuna and sardines. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, whose abundant antioxidants protect the brain from free radical damage. The B vitamins are also vital to neurological function. As you get older, your digestion system becomes less efficient at absorbing nutrients from food. You may need to add a daily B-complex supplement.

Pray or Meditate

People who pray or meditate gain significant neurological benefits versus people who don’t. Individuals who engage in regular spiritual activities have lower stress levels and are less likely to develop depression and anxiety.

Watch Less TV

Watching television is linked to several brain problems, including Attention Deficit Disorder in children. Adults who watch television for two or more hours a day, meanwhile, increase their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Finally, check with your health care professional for additional ways you can keep your brain in top working order.

Dr. Erika Hamer is a chiropractic neurologist and owner of Ponte Vedra Wellness Center, with offices in Ponte Vedra Beach and Nocatee Town Center. Dr. Hamer also runs Ponte Vedra Training Company, specializing in doctor supervised training programs customized according to individual goals and physical limitations.