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How to Stop the Brain Drain of Aging

April 16, 2018

As aging takes its toll on our bodies and brain mechanics, researchers point to lifestyle, exercise habits and eating patterns that can maximize brain health and minimize impairment.

Lynne McPhee, a registered dietitian at Backus Hospital, says what we eat and how we live can impact our brain’s ability to create new brain cell “plasticity” and boost brain power.

“We know our choices affect other aspects of our health, but we can also help improve our brain’s health at the same time,” McPhee says.

She suggests the following tips for maximum brain health:

  • Get enough sleep. Adults should get eight hours a night, while teenagers require 10-12 hours to “clear out and reboot the brain for a new day.”
  • Exercise. Every adult should aim for 150 minutes of moderate to high-level activity each week. That could be walking, jogging, swimming, dancing, yoga or tai chi. Activity can be done in large chunks or broken down into 10-minute sessions as long as it all adds up. Children should get 60 minutes of activity in each day.
  • Pack in the Omega-3 fats. These are known brain-boosters. The National Institute of Medicine recommends a daily intake of 1 to 1.1 grams a day for adults, 0.9 to 1.2 grams for children. Good sources include tuna fish (1 gram per 3 ounces when packed in oil, 0.7 grams if packed in water), salmon (1.7 grams per 3 ounces), herring (1.8 grams per 3 ounces), mackerel (1.1 grams per 3 ounces), anchovies (1.8 grams per 3 ounces, packed in oil), ground flax seed (3.2 grams for 2 tablespoons), walnuts (2.6 grams for 14 halves) and canola oil (1.3 grams for one tablespoon). The added benefit of Omega-3s is that they reduce inflammation and improve immunity, which is also linked to cardiovascular disease.
  • Follow the Mediterranean or the DASH Diet meal plan. These plans include more vegetables and fruits, whole-grain foods, nuts/seeds/beans, low-fat dairy and fish, with less red meats.

Working with a nutritionist can help create a diet that meets the needs of your body and brain. Find out more about nutritional counseling at Backus Hospital by clicking here