This is default featured slide 1 title
This is default featured slide 2 title
This is default featured slide 3 title
This is default featured slide 4 title
This is default featured slide 5 title
 

Breaking Down the Brain Health Statistics

States that ranked high in the 2011 America‚Äôs Brain Health Index share some traits, such as good diets and higher levels of physical activity, and residents of the top states tend to be intellectually curious. “It’s so important to have an intellectual passion and hobbies,” says Cleveland Clinic chief wellness officer Dr. Michael Roizen. The Beautiful Minds campaign also highlights inspiring seniors who are putting their minds to good use by volunteering, teaching classes, writing novels, and even bodybuilding.

Roizen notes that many of the states in the South rank at the bottom of the list, which he attributes to unhealthy diets and physical inactivity, reflected in the high incidence of diabetes.

But Southerners don’t have it all wrong: A positive brain health factor the Southern states share is a high level of religious and spiritual activity, which is a big boost for emotional health. “The benefit of believing in a higher being is that it will help you manage stress better,” says Roizen. “Stress ages you more than any other factor.” Several scientific studies have confirmed the benefits of religious activity: The Whitehall study of British civil servants, a major study on the health effects of stress, found that the participants who said they were more spiritual experienced less aging from stress and aged better. “Spirituality and religious practices may also help slow the regression of cognitive abilities caused by Alzheimer’s disease,” adds Roizen.

Check out the Brain Health Index interactive map for the full ranking of all the states.

Dr. Roizen’s Four Steps to Better Brain Health

Although healthy living habits are always important for your mind and body, they take on special importance in the mid-fifties and beyond. From the age of 55, our faculties begin to decline, and we are less able to multitask. “Our goal with the Beautiful Minds campaign is to motivate people to change how their minds age,” Dr. Roizen told Everyday Health. “Keeping the brain healthy is easier than many people realize.”

Roizen outlines the following steps you can take to improve your brain health:

  • Get more physical activity. Exercise doesn’t just help your body – “Staying fit can actually help reconstruct your brain,” says Roizen. Although any exercise you enjoy doing is fine, Roizen recommends interval training, meaning doing an exercise at a moderate pace and then ramping up to a faster pace during the last minute, provided that your doctor says you are fit enough. For example, if you spend 20 minutes on a treadmill, spend the last minute running at a higher speed.
  • Be socially engaged. People who are involved with their family, friends, and community tend to stay sharper than those who aren’t. In addition to socializing with your immediate circle, brain health experts suggest getting involved with your community through religious or spiritual activities as a way to lower your stress levels. “In research, men and women who had the most social interaction within their community had less than half the rate of memory loss as those with the least social engagement,” says Roizen.
  • Get your blood pressure checked. The brain is dependent on blood supply, and as we get older, these blood vessels age, too. “When we’re older, our brains actually decrease in IQ every five years,” says Roizen. Keeping your blood pressure within a healthy range will help your blood vessels stay as healthy as possible. A study published in the journal Neurology found that treating traditional risk factors for heart disease such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol may also help to prevent the progression of cognitive problems into full-blown Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Get more DHA in your diet. The Memory Improvement With DHA Study (MIDAS) presented at the 2009 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease found that DHA supplements may help slow the rate of progression of age-related mental decline in healthy seniors. “The best natural sources of DHA are salmon and trout. DHA is also in fortified foods like soy milk, eggs, and nutrition bars, or in supplements,” Roizen says. Of course, eating a healthy, well-rounded diet is important too.