Ten things that'll help you remember where you put your keys. By Caitlin Reid.
Stimulate your mind
Keeping your mind agile is just as important as keeping your body fit in the battle to stay young. Mounting evidence suggests that increased mental activity such as doing regular crosswords or Sudoku puzzles can protect a person from some types of dementia, as these exercises help your brain strengthen connections between brain cells. So maintain and enhance intellectual performance later on in life by continually challenging the brain.
Snack on blueberries
Blueberries contain antioxidants such as polyphenols, which fight against the premature ageing of cells. A review of research in 2008 concluded that blueberries helped slow ageing and inflammation in the brain, thereby reducing the effect of age-related declines in cognitive function. The science behind it is complicated, but the effect is a no-brainer: researchers believe the antioxidants help neurons in your brain communicate.
Tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world – second only to water. According to a 2008 study published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, we have good reason to drink it: 50mg of L-theanine (contained in three cups of tea) daily increased alpha-brainwave activity, resulting in a relaxed mind without inducing drowsiness. The L-theanine and caffeine in tea also enables us to switch between tasks more effectively. So, is it tea time yet?
Eat your eggs
Not only are eggs packed with protein, vitamin B12, iron, vitamin E and selenium, they also contain choline. There is some evidence to suggest that choline improves cognitive function and memory at all stages of life, while choline deficiency has been linked to poor cognitive function in some people, such as the elderly. Lucky for us there are many ways to prepare eggs ... check out our article 10 ways with eggs.
Milk contains two brain-boosting amino acids. The first, tryptophan, converts to the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin, which not only regulates memory and learning, but has a calming effect and helps to induce sleep. The second, tyrosine, converts into hormones such as adrenaline; improving cognitive performance and mood under stress. Just an udder reason to drink up.
A handful of spinach in your pasta sauce or on your sandwich may help preserve your cognitive abilities later on in life, say researchers from Harvard Medical School. According to their study, conducted on more than 13,000 females, women who consumed the highest amount of leafy greens and cruciferous vegies (eg. broccoli and cauliflower) had less cognitive decline over an 11-year period. It’s believed the carotenoids, folate and vitamin C in spinach are responsible for the result.
Yes, mum was right (again) – you do need your rest. Inadequate sleep reduces memory, diminishes mental performance, affects the ability to perform simple tasks and reduces attention span. A study from Harvard Medical School in Boston found that people who slept before an exam scored 13% better than people who didn’t sleep, proving that sleep consolidates memories. We knew there was a reason for sleep-ins!
The human body is about 70% water. Yet a mere 2% reduction in your body’s water can impair your cognitive performance! A 2005 Swiss study found dehydration also increases feelings of tiredness, reduces alertness and increases levels of perceived effort and concentration. You may also suffer from a shorter attention span and decreased ability to coordinate vision and body movement. So drink your eight glasses – ‘water’ a good idea!
According to a growing body of research, exercise is not only good for physical health, it’s fantastic for mental health, too. A 2006 study published in Annals of Internal Medicine found that people over the age of 65, who exercised less than three times per week for less than 15 minutes each time over a period of six years, significantly increased their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Analysis of 18 relevant studies also found that being active reduced the age-associated decline in cognitive processes such as multi-tasking and planning in healthy adults. Benefits increased when aerobic training was combined with strength training.
Swap to oily fish
Ever heard people refer to fish as brain food? They’re right. When you eat fish, you’re eating two of the most brain-friendly omega-3 fatty acids known to man: EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). EPA is important in mood and behaviour, while DHA is needed to pass electrical signals easily from one brain cell to the next. 60% of the brain is made up of fats, the majority of which is DHA – so when you get the right amount in your diet, your brain cells communicate more quickly with each other.