7 Ways to keep your brain sharp

Reader's Digest Editors

We all know that looking after our bodies is important, but what about our brains? We give you seven aptitude-boosting mind tips...

1. Go med

There’s growing evidence that a Mediterranean diet can help protect against the effects of ageing, including some forms of dementia. A review carried out in 2010 by researchers from the University of Florence found that eating the Mediterranean way was linked with a 13 per cent lower risk of brain diseases.

 

2. Be game

Playing video games can help enhance your memory and speed up your reaction time. In a study at the University of Illinois, USA, a group of over-60s who played a computer game called Rise of Nations for eight weeks scored higher in tests of what scientists call executive function—the ability to plan, reason, problem solve and multi-task—than those who stayed on the side.

 

3. Embrace stillness

Meditation is good for your brain. In a 2011 study carried out in the USA and Germany, participants were given brain scans before and after a programme of weekly meetings and daily meditation exercises. The results showed changes in their brain structure, such as increased grey-matter density in the hippocampus, the brain area used for learning and memory.

 

4. Learn the lingo

You’ll stimulate the frontal lobes of your cerebrum—the part of your brain associated with short-term memory. Research at Tel Aviv University shows that adults have great potential for learning new languages—although they learn them differently from children. Try learning the language used at your favourite holiday destination.

 

5. Calmly does it

Constant stress can impair your brain health and mental performance. Studies show that high levels of cortisol, one of the body’s main stress hormones, can damage the hippocampus and dent memory and learning.

 

6. Chuckle away

The old saying that laughter is the best medicine holds true for the brain as well as the body, according to researchers in South Korea. Why? It helps to activate areas associated with creativity and learning.

 

7. Sleep on it

Getting enough shut-eye helps to fix your memories. And a 2010 US study showed that as well as consolidating our memories during sleep, the brain is busy organising them and picking out the most salient information, which may aid creative thinking.