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May 2015

Tips to Keep Your Brain Sharp

Do you want to keep your brain sharp? There is good news. This can be done, in part by managing certain medical conditions, lifestyle and activities, and by following a Mediterranean style diet. Another factor in preserving memory is minimizing damage to the blood vessels in the brain. These vessels deliver vital nutrients, a key to brain health.


  • Control Your Blood Pressure -  high blood pressure takes its toll on mental function, damaging small blood vessels.
  • Control Your Blood Sugar - impaired glucose tolerance due to diabetes or insulin resistance, can damage the small blood vessels and may shrink parts of the brain.  Both are risk factors for dementia.
  • Maintain a Healthy Body Weight - excess weight is often a sign of insulin resistance and can contribute to high blood pressure and risk of diabetes.
  • Keep Physically Active - strive for 30 minutes each day. Studies show regular exercise such as brisk walking may boost brain activity.  Check with your physician to see what’s right for you.
  • Exercise Your Brain - play mind games, word and number puzzles, cards, or even bingo.
  • Treat Depression - often the root of some memory problems.
  • If you Smoke - stop.
  • Get Enough Sleep –although research is limited, studies show sleep may reduce the risk of cognitive decline.


Research suggests a diet similar to Mediterranean-style eating; rich in vegetables, fish, legumes and healthy fats can keep your brain sharp!  It should also be balanced with adequate protein, moderate carbohydrates and healthy fats.  Be choosy about carbohydrates.  Too many, especially processed or refined, may contribute to the risk of cognitive decline as they impact blood sugar.

  • Eat your Fruits and Vegetables–  focus on fresh fruit and fresh or frozen vegetables.  To keep carbohydrates in check, have more vegetables.  Berries and leafy greens have phytonutrients offering added benefits.
  • Whole Grains - choose whole grains with at least 3 grams of fiber per serving.  Due to the high carbohydrate content have whole grains in moderation.
  • Fish -focus on fatty fish, high in omega 3s.  Include a variety of species; salmon, sardines, trout and tuna.  Have baked, grilled or broiled fish at least once a week.
  • Smart Fat Choices– choose unsaturated fats with minimal saturated fats.  Use olive oil in place of butter, avocado instead of mayonnaise, olive oil & vinegar instead of ranch dressing.  Moderate total fat intake especially if you need to lose weight as fats are high in calories.
  • Vitamins B12 & D– have your blood levels checked to ensure they are adequate, you may need a supplement. B12 is found only in animal products and is difficult to absorb with certain medications.  There are few good food sources of Vitamin D.  Fish and D-fortified low-fat dairy products contain the most.
  • Other Things to Consider-  coffee and tea, especially green tea, show promise in protecting the brain.  Enjoy in moderation unless you have a medical issue and have been advised not to.


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