We all want to sharpen our focus, enhance our memory and improve our concentration. Yet if you believe what you read online, you’d think you need special foods, dietary supplements, online games, and various apps to do it. It’s enough to make one’s brain hurt.
But don’t believe the hype. You don’t need special vitamins or flashcards or tinfoil headgear to maximize your brain’s performance. These four simple, everyday tips and four common foods will help you increase your brain and memory power naturally.
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4 Ways to Boost Your Brain Power
- 1. Get a Fast Start with Breakfast
Don’t try to take a shortcut in the morning by skipping breakfast. Studies have linked breakfast to improved short-term memory and attention. Students who eat breakfast perform better than those who don’t. So start the morning with a healthy breakfast. But don’t eat too much. A high-calorie breakfast may hinder concentration.
- 2. Exercise Your Muscles and Strengthen Your Brain
Exercise gets the blood flowing. That helps your brain get the oxygen and nutrients it needs for top performance. Some research found that people who rode a stationary bike or walked on a treadmill for 30-60 minutes, three times a week, had improved blood flow to the area of the brain that deals with memory retention. After 12 weeks, they did better on memory tests. Other types of exercise can be helpful as well. Yoga three times a week has been found to improve brain function in older adults.
- 3. Teach That Old Dog Some New Tricks
Despite the hype, crossword puzzles and online games by themselves will not boost your brain. But learning something new will. Researchers had older people try different activities, but only those who learned a new skill, such as quilting, showed significant improvement in brain function. The brain is like a muscle. The more you use it the stronger it gets. To find a new hobby that excites and challenges you. Pick up a musical instrument, try a new language, or play chess on the computer.
- 4. You May Not Lose If You Snooze
After all that hard brain work, you deserve a nap. And it will be good for you, too! A nap is a great way to reboot your tired brain in the afternoon, charge yourself up for the rest of the day, and improve your mood. A 20-minute snooze—often called a power nap—is a great way to enhance motor skills and attention. An hour to 90 minutes of napping helps make new connections in the brain and can help with solving creative problems. Napping between 20 and 90 minutes may also help, but you may feel groggy when you wake up.
4 Proven Fuels for Your Brain
1. Be Smart – Eat Fish
Not only are fish rich in proteins, they provide omega-3 fatty acids. These are healthy fats that give the brain a boost. A diet with higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids has been linked to lower dementia and stroke risks and slower mental decline. They may also play a vital role in enhancing memory. For the brain – and heart – health, eat two servings of fish weekly.
2. Nuts and Chocolate
Nuts and seeds are good sources of the antioxidant vitamin E. In some studies, that’s been found to reduce cognitive decline as you age. Dark chocolate – in addition to being delicious – also has powerful antioxidant properties. (Plus a little caffeine to perk you up.) You don’t need a lot – just an ounce a day of nuts and dark chocolate will give you the boost you want.
3. Get the Blood Flowing with Whole Grains and Fruits
The brain depends on blood flow. A diet high in whole grains and fruits like avocados can lower bad cholesterol. This enhances blood flow, offering a simple, tasty way to get your brain cells firing. Whole grains, like popcorn and whole wheat, also contribute dietary fiber and vitamin E. And the fat in avocados is monounsaturated which helps with healthy blood flow.
4. Blueberries Are Brain-Berries
Research in animals shows that blueberries may help protect the brain from the damage caused by free radicals (which can damage cells in your body) and may reduce the effects of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Studies have also found that blueberry-rich diets improved both the learning and muscle function of aging rats. Just one cup a day – fresh, frozen or freeze-dried – is all you need.
What About Vitamins, Minerals, and Supplements?
The internet is full of supplements that claim brain-boosting power. Supplements like vitamins B, C, E, beta-carotene, and magnesium are promising, but supplements are primarily useful to people whose diets are lacking in that specific nutrient. Some researchers are cautiously optimistic about vitamin, mineral, and herb combinations, but more proof is still needed.
Get Smart – See Your Doctor Regularly
The brain is an amazing organ. But to help it achieve peak performance, you don’t need to fancy tools or supplements or equipment. The smartest way to help your brain stay healthy and high performing is by regularly seeing your primary care provider. A healthy body leads to a healthy mind. With more than 300 primary providers at more than 50 convenient locations, it’s easy to find a UPMC Pinnacle primary care provider near you. to UPMCPinnacle.com/PrimaryLocations to find the location closest to you.
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About UPMC Harrisburg
UPMC Harrisburg is a nationally recognized leader in providing high-quality, patient-centered health care services in south central PA. and surrounding rural communities. UPMC Harrisburg includes seven acute care hospitals and over 160 outpatient clinics and ancillary facilities serving Dauphin, Cumberland, Perry, York, Lancaster, Lebanon, Juniata, Franklin, Adams, and parts of Snyder counties. These locations care for more than 1.2 million area residents yearly, providing life-saving emergency care, essential primary care, and leading-edge diagnostic services. Its cardiovascular program is nationally recognized for its innovation and quality. It also leads the region with its cancer, neurology, transplant, obstetrics-gynecology, maternity care, and orthopaedic programs.