Are You Living A Brain-Healthy Lifestyle?

November 13 2019

“Two-thirds of what determines how well we age comes from nongenetic factors – as in, our everyday behaviours,” says psychiatrist Dr Gary Small. In Small’s poll of more than 18,000 people across the country, those with healthier habits – a balanced diet, regular exercise – reported fewer memory complaints. And he has found that when people learn and use memory techniques on top of that, magnetic resonance imaging and positron-emission tomography brain images reveal changed neural circuitry and a measurable boost in memory. Which strategies are best for your brain? Take this quiz to find out.


Lifting weights does what to your brain?

A. Damages brain cells
B. Improves your memory
C. Nothing

ANSWER: B. Strength training for 60 minutes, three times a week improves both long- and short-term memory, according to a study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.


How can you expand your brain’s grey matter?

A. Cook more often
B. Do some long division
C. Learn a new language

ANSWER: C. Break your familiar routine and expose yourself to novel situations to help you maintain a higher level of brain functioning, says psychologist Dr Keith Lyle. “If you’re not exercising your brain, it’s like when you’re not using a muscle very much – your body doesn’t put resources into that organ. It says, ‘I don’t need to. I can get by with a relatively low level of resources here,’” he says. This can involve learning a new language, reading different books, listening to a new kind of music, or simply taking a different route home.


If you’re having trouble concentrating at work, what should you do?

A. Organise your desk
B. Eat a cookie
C. Grab a cup of coffee

ANSWER: A. Cleaning not only relieves stress but also declutters your brain. When Princeton University researchers looked at task performance in organised versus chaotic environments, they found that clutter in your surroundings competes for your attention, decreases your performance, and increases your stress.


Which of these fatty foods isn’t a brain booster?

A. Salmon
B. Margarine
C. Egg Yolks

ANSWER: B. Eggs and fatty fish are full of brain-healthy nutrients, but the trans fats often found in artificial spreads can damage brain activity, according to a study in the journal Nutrition.


Where’s the best place to stroll?

A. Through the park
B. In a foreign city
C. On a treadmill

ANSWER: A. Researchers from the University of Michigan found that memory and attention improved by 20% when people opted to walk in a park rather than in an urban environment. Study co-author and psychology researcher Marc Berman says this is because nature has a calming effect, while busy surroundings overstimulate the brain.


What’s the best thing to do before a big work meeting?

A. Give yourself a pep talk in front of the mirror
B. Catch up on your watercooler gossip
C. Surf the Internet

ANSWER: B. Chatting with co-workers temporarily increases your intelligence and improves decision-making skills, according to a study published in Social Psychology and Personality Science.


Putting a plant on your desk can boost productivity by…

A. 5%
B. 23%
C. 12%

ANSWER: C. A Washington State University study found that any plant – even a fake one – will boost your productivity by 12%.


True or false: Your short-term memory is limitless.

False. “You can hold only a certain amount of information in your short-term memory before it’s full and you have to kick something out,” says brain health expert Ruth Curran. Do yourself a favour and group several items into one unit whenever possible. After all, trying to remember 10 ingredients is more difficult than simply remembering that you want to make your special tacos. Instead of going to the shops and thinking, “tomatoes, salsa, cheese, lettuce, beans,” consider “tacos” as one unit, and you should be able to recall the components when you get to the grocery store.


Which of these drinks hurts your memory?

A. Green tea
B. Fruit juice
C. Water

ANSWER: B. Can’t remember where you put your keys? Blame the added sugar packed into your glass of orange juice. According to a study published in the journal Neurology, elevated blood sugar levels are damaging to both your long and short-term memory.


Which of these colours boosts your creativity?

A. Red
B. Green
C. Blue

ANSWER: C. University of British Columbia researchers found that blue triggers feelings of freedom and tranquillity, through associations with the sky and oceans.


Which of these lunches can help stave off memory loss?

A. Fruit and yoghurt
B. Red meat
C. Green salad

ANSWER: C. Apparently, mum and dad were onto something. Greens provide essential nutrients like protein, iron and fibre, but they are also good for your brain. Research published in the journal Neurology says that eating one to two servings of leafy greens a day improves your memory and overall cognitive ability.


Loneliness increases your chances of dementia.

True. A Dutch study found that people who describe themselves as lonely are more likely to develop the degenerative brain disease dementia. In fact, the busier your social life, the better you are at decision-making recall.


Which of these is the quickest (and easiest) way to boost your IQ?

A. Going to the gym every day
B. Reading a different newspaper
C. Taking an online class

ANSWER: B. Vanderbilt University scientists found that changing your newspaper or preferred news website once a month can add three points to your IQ. This is because it changes your reading style and causes you to re-evaluate, question, and strengthen or mentally justify your beliefs.


Which type of music boosts your brain power?

A. Rock
B. Pop
C. Classical

ANSWER: C. A study from the University of Helsinki, published in the journal Scientific Reports, found that listening to classical music boosts the brain at any age. “By affecting dopamine pathways, music silenced the genes that are risk factors for dementia,” says lead researcher Dr Irma Järvelä, an associate professor of medical molecular genetics at the University of Helsinki.


If you’re working inside, where should you sit if you want to feel refreshed and energised?

A. In a corner
B. By the window
C. Near the kitchen

ANSWER: B. A Northwestern University study found that a good dose of natural light from a window reduces fatigue. It also helps regulate your circadian rhythm, so you sleep better at night and wake refreshed.


True or false: The best way to remember something is to say it out loud.

False. It’s easier to remember things when you write them down. Lyle stresses the importance of using diaries, calendars, and note pads to enhance your memory.


How can you remember a meaningful moment?

A. Take a picture
B. Talk about it
C. Both A & B

ANSWER: C. “If you want to be certain to remember a meaningful moment, try to incorporate as many senses as possible while it’s unfolding,” Curran says. For instance, if you’re cooking with your grandmother and you don’t want to forget the day, pick up a lemon and inhale the scent. The next time you want to elicit that memory, a whiff of a lemon may take you back there. Or say you’re going on a romantic walk on the beach with your partner, and you want to remember and cherish the experience. “Pick up a pebble and hold it in your hand. The next time you see and hold the pebble, it will be a visual and tactile trigger for that memory,” Curran says.


Where should you put your phone so you don’t forget it?

A. On the kitchen table
B. Next to your bed
C. In your shoe

ANSWER: C. Using visual cues can help you remember where you put things – or to pick them up so you don’t forget them. Let’s say you often forget your phone at home. While it’s easy to bypass the nightstand or table on your way out the door, you can’t leave the house without putting shoes on your feet.


Sourced from Prevention.

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