How to Improve Your Brain Health!

Elizabeth Somer, M.A., R.D., author of Age-Proof Your Body, shared tips for improving the health of your brain and told us how Oregon's brain health compares to the rest of the country.

According to the Index of Brain Health, the top 10 geographies in the nation with the highest brain health ranking, listed from No. 1, are the District of Columbia, Maryland, Washington state, Vermont, Connecticut, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maine and New Hampshire. The two states to receive the lowest brain health ranking are Alabama and Louisiana. Oregon ranked #13. 

The Index indicates that residents of the top 10 brain-healthy states tend to enjoy fish, consume a good amount of DHA omega-3 foods or supplements, eat lots of fruits and vegetables, watch their waistlines, avoid smoking, read for personal interest and put a high priority on education. The results show that the majority of the top 10 ranked states border or are near the Atlantic or Pacific oceans and appear to have an advantage when it comes to brain health: One hypothesis is the accessibility of fish with its healthy fats and protein.

The 21 brain health indicators, as part of the four categories mentioned before, include factors that have been shown to be key indicators of brain health: consumption of DHA omega-3 fats, breastfeeding rates, smoking rates, Alzheimer’s disease prevalence, time spent sleeping, time spent on religious/spiritual activities, and level of community involvement, among many others.

How Did Oregon Rank?
Oregon ranked #13 out of the 50 states and DC. Oregonians did well on reading, eating ample fish, and breastfeeding. But did poorly when it came to the high rates of Alzheimer's disease in our state, low religion or spiritual involvement and poor education. We ranked above average on diet, but average or below the national average on physical activity, mental health, and social well-being.

Maintaining Better Brain Health
Actions people can take to maintain better brain health include:

1. Eating brain-enhancing nutrients, such as DHA omega-3 in fish or foods, beverages and supplements.

2. Fruits and vegetables—especially colorful ones like red grapes, cranberries and tomatoes—contain powerful polyphenols that decrease the inflammation that is the enemy of brain health by handcuffing free radicals and eliminating them from your system. 

3. Staying physically active for at least 30 minutes a day and making wise lifestyle decisions such as getting enough sleep.

4. Continuing to use the brain and teaching it new things. Playing games, learning a new language, and working a hobby job after retirement.

5. Engaging in social activities. Socializing with friends keeps you connected, relieves stress and boosts brain health. Volunteering, participating in clubs and attending religious services fit the bill as well.

6. Breastfeed your babies. Studies show that breastfed babies are smarter throughout life, probably because of the many special compounds, including DHA, in breastmilk.

7. Maintain a desirable weight. Being overweight increases the chances three-fold of developing dementia with age.

8. Don't smoke.



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