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7 Habits That Help Keep the Mind Sharp

November 20, 2017

1. Regular exercise

 Exercise transforms the brain by stimulating the release of growth factors — chemicals in the brain that influence the health, abundance and survival of new brain cells and the growth of new blood vessels. Exercise can also help improve our mood, sleep patterns and stress level, all of which contribute to cognitive impairment.

 

For years, experts have been aware that exercise causes a spike in a unique group of chemicals called endorphins, although little has been said about the benefits of exercise on the hippocampus, a small organ located within the brain’s medial temporal lobe.

The hippocampus, a brain area critical for learning and memory, is thought to shrink by as much as 15% in late adulthood, making it a primary target of studies in Alzheimer’s disease. However, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is tackling the issue of shrinkage, and highlighting the positive effects exercise can have on hippocampal volume.

 

Researchers discovered that aerobic exercise increases the size of the anterior hippocampus, leading to improvements in spatial memory. Not only that, they found exercise increased hippocampal volume by 2%, effectively reversing age-related loss in volume by 1-2 years.

 

2. Meditate

You’ve heard that meditation is great for reducing stress and improving concentration, but it’s even more impressive to see what it can do for our brains as we age.

 

Multiple studies show that regular meditation can significantly improve attention, memory, verbal fluency and help prevent cognitive decline. During meditation, practitioners experience a period of deep relaxation, called the relaxation response. That relaxation response is thought to reduce stress hormones, change brain waves and release all kinds of healthy benefits throughout your mind and body. Researchers note that when we meditate for