Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Summary: how to live a brain-healthy lifestyle

mBal­anced nutri­tion: As a gen­er­al guide­line, what is good for the body is also good for the brain. Eat­ing a vari­ety of foods of dif­fer­ent col­ors includ­ing cold-water fish which con­tain omega‑3 fat­ty acids and avoid­ing high­ly processed foods with added ingre­di­ents are rec­om­mend­ed. Veg­eta­bles, par­tic­u­lar­ly green, leafy ones, are also rec­om­mend­ed where­as few well known sup­ple­ments have shown long-term ben­e­fits on mem­o­ry and oth­er cog­ni­tive func­tions.

Stress man­age­ment: Chron­ic stress reduces and can even inhib­it neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis. Med­i­ta­tion, yoga, and oth­er calm­ing activ­i­ties are effec­tive in coun­ter­ing stress. Biofeed­back devices that mea­sure heart rate vari­abil­i­ty and show stress lev­els in real-time offer a more high-tech option to man­age stress.

Phys­i­cal exer­cise: Phys­i­cal exer­cise has been shown to enhance brain phys­i­ol­o­gy in ani­mals and, more recent­ly, in humans. Phys­i­cal exer­cise improves learn­ing through increased blood sup­ply and growth hor­mone lev­els in the body. Of all the types of phys­i­cal exer­cise, car­dio­vas­cu­lar exer­cise that gets the heart beat­ing, from walk­ing to ski­ing, ten­nis and bas­ket­ball, has been shown to have the great­est effect.

Men­tal stim­u­la­tion
: It strength­ens the synaps­es or con­nec­tions between neu­rons, thus improv­ing neu­ron sur­vival and cog­ni­tive func­tion­ing. Good men­tal exer­cise requires nov­el­ty, vari­ety and increas­ing lev­els of chal­lenge.

Impor­tant take-away
: These pil­lars are com­ple­men­tary, they do not sub­sti­tute each oth­er. It is impor­tant for a per­son to rec­og­nize their start­ing point, and iden­ti­fy what pil­lar they may need to focus more on.

For each pil­lar or lifestyle fac­tor, it is impor­tant to be cre­ative in find­ing a sched­ule or rou­tine that works for an indi­vid­ual through tri­al and error.

Accord­ing to Dr. Art Kramer, the ide­al way would be to com­bine phys­i­cal and men­tal stim­u­la­tion along with social inter­ac­tion. Now, what can you do to start your healthy-brain lifestyle tomorrow?   Have a look at the sev­er­al lifestyle tips that are easy to imple­ment.

How to live a brain-healthy lifestyle?

Bal­anced Nutri­tion:

  • Eat a vari­ety of foods of dif­fer­ent col­ors with­out a lot of added ingre­di­ents or process­es.
  • Plan your meals around your veg­eta­bles, and then add fruit, pro­tein, dairy, and/or grains.
  • Add some cold-water fish to your diet (tuna, salmon, mack­er­el, hal­ibut, sar­dines, and her­ring), which con­tain omega‑3 fat­ty acids.
  • Go to the Unit­ed States Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture web­site at to learn what a por­tion-size is, so you don’t overeat.
  • Try to eat more foods low on the Glycemic Index (learn more at
  • If you can only do one thing, eat more veg­eta­bles, par­tic­u­lar­ly leafy green ones.

Stress man­age­ment:

  • Get reg­u­lar car­dio­vas­cu­lar exer­cise.
  • Try to get enough sleep each night (i.e. six to eight hours).
  • Stay con­nect­ed with friends and fam­i­ly.
  • Prac­tice med­i­ta­tion, yoga, or some oth­er calm­ing activ­i­ty as a way to take a relax­ing time-out.
  • Try train­ing with a heart rate vari­abil­i­ty sen­sor, like the one in the emWave® Stress Man­age­ment pro­grams.
  • If you can only do one thing, set aside 5–10 min­utes a day to just breathe deeply and recharge.

Phys­i­cal Exer­cise:

  • Start by talk­ing to your doc­tor, espe­cial­ly if you are not cur­rent­ly phys­i­cal­ly active, have spe­cial health con­cerns, or are mak­ing sig­nif­i­cant changes to your cur­rent pro­gram.
  • Set a goal that you can achieve. Do some­thing you enjoy for even just 15 min­utes a day; you can always add more time and vari­ety lat­er.
  • Sched­ule exer­cise into your dai­ly rou­tine. It will become a habit faster if you do.
  • If you can only do one thing, do some­thing car­dio­vas­cu­lar, i.e. some­thing that gets your heart beat­ing faster. This includes walk­ing, run­ning, ski­ing, swim­ming, bik­ing, hik­ing, ten­nis, bas­ket­ball, play­ing tag, ulti­mate Fris­bee, and oth­er sim­i­lar sports/activities.

Men­tal Stim­u­la­tion:

  • Do a vari­ety of things, includ­ing things you are not good at for nov­el­ty (if you like to sing, try paint­ing or danc­ing).
  • Be curi­ous! Get to know your local library and com­mu­ni­ty col­lege, look for local orga­ni­za­tions that offer class­es and work­shops, or join a book club.
  • Work puz­zles like cross­words and sudoku or play games like chess and bridge. How­ev­er, make sure to intro­duce nov­el­ty and vari­ety — doing more of the same is not what helps most.

This online resource is based on the con­tent from the book The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness (2013), by Alvaro Fer­nan­dez and Dr. Elkhonon Gold­berg.

Search in our archives

About SharpBrains

As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

Follow us and Engage via…

RSS Feed

Watch All Recordings Now (40+ Speakers, 12+ Hours)