■ 1. EXERCISE REGULARLY: Brisk cardiovascular exercise brings rich, oxygenated blood to the brain. You should get at least 30 minutes of heart-pumping exercise three times a week. Also, do strength training at least twice a week, because muscle development also produces more energy for the brain.
2. REDUCE STRESS: Stress is a major cause of illness, thanks to the effects of the hormone cortisol. Too much cortisol can wear down the hippocampus, which plays a role in memory function. Exercise and meditation can help.
3. GET PLENTY OF SLEEP: Sleep deprivation is the number one cause of fuzzy, disjointed mental function. Studies show that people who get at least eight hours of sleep each night can avoid some age-related brain decline.
4. EAT LOW-FAT AND HEALTHY: Glucose spikes and fatty plaque deposits that accompany overeating can damage the brain. A lower-calorie diet promotes better circulation and also controls weight, leading to lower blood pressure.
5. GIVE YOUR BRAIN A WORKOUT: Try to do or learn something new each week, whether writing a letter with the hand you do not usually use, or learning a new language. Challenging the brain with novel tasks and activities creates new neural pathways, making it more versatile, and improves its multitasking ability. [bw]