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Let’s improve Brain Health Literacy during Brain Awareness Week 2018


Please join us in get­ting ready to cel­e­brate Brain Aware­ness Week 2018 (March 12–18th), the annu­al glob­al cam­paign orga­nized by the Dana Foun­da­tion to increase pub­lic aware­ness about the progress and ben­e­fits of brain research.

To learn about activ­i­ties in your area, please vis­it BAW’s Inter­na­tion­al Cal­en­dar of events.

And remem­ber you don’t need to trav­el any­where to improve your brain health lit­er­a­cy and to adopt smarter, brain-friend­ly habits. Here are ten use­ful facts and tips com­ing from the hun­dreds of sci­en­tif­ic stud­ies ana­lyzed to pre­pare the book The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness: How to Improve Brain Health and Per­for­mance at Any Age:

1. Genes do not deter­mine the fate of our brains. As evi­denced by life­long neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty, our lifestyles are even more impor­tant than our genes in shap­ing how our brains grow and our minds evolve.

2. There is more than one “It” in “Use It or Lose It” — our men­tal per­for­mance depends on a vari­ety of brain func­tions, not just one (be it “atten­tion” or “mem­o­ry” or any oth­er).

3. Phys­i­cal exer­cise and increased fit­ness pro­mote brain func­tion­ing through a vari­ety of mech­a­nisms, such as increased brain vol­ume, blood sup­ply and growth hor­mone lev­els. In par­tic­u­lar, car­dio­vas­cu­lar exer­cise seems to bring the great­est brain ben­e­fits.

4. Chron­ic stress reduces and can even inhib­it neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis (the cre­ation of new neu­rons), and impair mem­o­ry, men­tal flex­i­bil­i­ty and deci­sion-mak­ing. So it’s good to see grow­ing evi­dence that med­i­ta­tion, cog­ni­tive behav­ioral ther­a­py and biofeed­back can empow­er every­one to self-reg­u­late phys­i­o­log­i­cal stress.

5. Men­tal stim­u­la­tion strength­ens the con­nec­tions between neu­rons (synaps­es), improv­ing neu­ron sur­vival and cog­ni­tive func­tion­ing and build­ing your cog­ni­tive reserve–which helps your brain bet­ter cope with nor­mal aging and even with Alzheimer’s pathol­o­gy.

6. The only leisure activ­i­ty that has been asso­ci­at­ed with reduced cog­ni­tive func­tion is watch­ing tele­vi­sion. Why? Well, rou­tine, pas­sive activ­i­ties do not chal­lenge the brain. Exer­cis­ing the brain requires try­ing new and effort­ful things, gen­er­at­ing new thoughts and strate­gies and lessons learned.

7. The Mediter­ranean Diet, sup­ple­ment­ed with olive oil and nuts, is asso­ci­at­ed with decreased risk of cog­ni­tive decline.

8. Tak­ing “brain sup­ple­ments”  does not seem to boost cog­ni­tive func­tion or reduce risks of cog­ni­tive decline or demen­tia, unless direct­ed to address an iden­ti­fied defi­cien­cy.

9. Mod­er­ate dos­es of caf­feine increase alert­ness but there is no clear sus­tained life­time health ben­e­fit — or harm.

10. Final­ly, one very impor­tant fact. There’s no “mag­ic pill” that works for every­one and for every­thing, so it’s impor­tant to nav­i­gate best options based on indi­vid­ual needs and pri­or­i­ties.

What counts in terms of brain health and men­tal fit­ness is not read­ing this article–or any other–but prac­tic­ing smart behav­iors every day. Revis­it the fact above that real­ly grabbed your atten­tion and make a deci­sion to try some­thing new to cel­e­brate Brain Aware­ness Week.

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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters, and more, SharpBrains is an independent market research firm and think tank tracking health and performance applications of brain science.