Learning Rx Chicago-Naperville offers 10 tips for keeping brain healthy

Weight loss and fitness most often top the list of must-do. But equally important is fitness for the brain. By now, New Year’s resolutions are long forgotten — or reality has set in.

Mia Tischer, executive director of Learning Rx Chicago-Naperville, suggests recommitting to goals, but instead of focusing just on fitness, think about helping your brain.

“This is no surprise … what’s good for the body is good for the brain,” she said. “It’s important that people know they can take a proactive approach to building a healthy brain.”

Here are Tischer’s tips for optimum brain health:

1. Eat complex carbohydrates instead of simple sugars. Our brain can’t store carbohydrates like muscles, so it requires a constant supply of glucose.

2. Balance foods. Balance carbohydrates by eating them with small amounts of protein, beneficial fats and fiber

3. Stay hydrated. Water is vital for proper brain function. Nutrients can reach the brain in adequate amounts only if the body gets enough fluids. Even slight dehydration can produce short-term memory deficits, reasoning difficulties and other cognitive problems.

4. Exercise. Even brisk walking increases blood flow to the brain.

5. Eat breakfast. Keeping our brains optimally powered is also dependent on when we eat. Eating breakfast is critically important for mental function in the morning. Studies show that kids who eat breakfast have better memories and test scores than those who skip the first meal of the day.

6. Snack throughout the day, instead of consuming giant meals.

7. Keep your brain active. Do crossword puzzles, learn another language, or lose the list and use mnemonics to remember your grocery list.

8. Get enough iron. Adequate iron is essential, along with Vitamin C, to help the body absorb certain types of iron. In one study, less than a third of the female participants had sufficient iron in their blood. These women performed cognitive exercises better and faster than women who were iron deficient

9. Eat fish. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish. These oils are crucial for building brain cell membranes and protecting brain blood vessels.

10. Get a brain check-up. Get a cognitive skills evaluation to find out which brain skills (memory, attention, visual processing, etc.) are weak.

The almost daily onslaught of new brain food research can be confusing, and well, mind-boggling, Tischer said.

“As new information comes along and you find yourself in doubt, just remember the bottom line: If it’s good for the body, it’s good for the brain too,” she said.

Courtesy of LearningRx-Naperville.

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