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Stay Sharp, Naturally

“The brain,” writes naturopathic physician Alan Logan, “is the conductor of the body’s orchestra.”

 

Given that our lives are quite complex symphonies, to continue the metaphor, we want to keep all the individual “instruments” that make up our bodies in tune. But to enjoy the best quality of life, it’s critical to keep the brain, our conductor, functioning at the highest possible level. 
 
There are supplements, extracts, and herbs that can help counteract the effects on the brain of aging, overstimulation, and a too-busy lifestyle. Consider one or more of the following to help stay mentally sharp. 
 
Omega 3s
They’re good for your heart, for your immune system, for fighting inflammation, and for helping prevent cancer, so it’s no surprise they contribute to brain health as well. Omega 3s, essential fatty acids found in fish oil and flax seed, are important for brain functioning and neurological development. 
 
A recent study at Rhode Island Hospital’s Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders Center found that healthy people given fish oil supplements scored higher on tests of memory and thinking over the course of three years than those who did not take the supplements. The brains of the healthy fish-oil-taking group were also larger, particularly in the hippocampus and the cerebral cortex, which are critical to memory and thinking. 
 
Magnesium
A mineral that has been shown to support cognitive recovery from brain injury, magnesium works to help the body insulate nerve fibers, balance the electrical activity of nerve cells, and spark enzymatic reactions related to the brain’s function and metabolism. A new study of Alzheimer’s patients found more cognitive impairment among those whose ion tests showed low levels of magnesium.
 
Blueberry Juice and Extract
With antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and lipid-lowering properties, blueberry extract can mitigate decline associated with aging. Research done in 2010 found improved memory and learning in elderly persons given blueberry juice. 
 
Citicoline
“Citicoline may mitigate the cognitive decline associated with normal aging and improve attentional deficits associated with overstimulation of the brain,” said Deborah Yurgelun-Todd, PhD, of the University of Utah’s Brain Institute. The Institute’s recent study of 60 healthy middle-aged women found that those given the nutrient citicoline made fewer errors in tests designed to measure mental focus and attention. 
 
Green Tea
A combination of green tea extract and L-theanine (an amino acid found in green tea) improved memory and attention in people with mild cognitive impairment in a recent double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Green tea enhances health through antioxidant, antibacterial, and antiviral actions; [BALCH, p. 158] L-theanine offers neuroprotective properties. 
 
Lifestyle changes
What else can you do to keep your brain charged? The Mayo Clinic offers these seven tips for improving memory:
  1. Stay mentally active
  2. Socialize regularly
  3. Get organized
  4. Focus
  5. Eat a healthy diet
  6. Include physical activity in your daily routine
  7. Manage chronic conditions

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