Often, many of my over-40 patients will tell me that they have “fuzzy”, or even scattered, thinking. They can’t remember where they put their keys or their wallet and may even have difficulty recalling a person’s name or the name of something they use every day! This causes a lot of concern that these may be symptoms of a serious illness like Alzheimer disease.

More than likely, I reassure them, its just over-40 “brain fog” which occurs to many of us, especially if we stop challenging our brain to learn new things and/or if our diets are less than optimal for good brain health. In addition, your brain can get stuck in a kind of rut when you go through the same routine everyday at home and at work from lack of stimulation.

In this article, I’d like to offer some simple and interesting things you can do to sharpen your mind and get it back in great shape like in your younger days! First, let’s start with some powerhouse nutrition to nourish and build those critical brain cells.

Feed Your Brain with Good Nutrition

You may have heard that fish is “brain food”. It’s true; in fact, it’s the perfect brain food. But do you know why? Fish is high in both protein and Omega-3 fats, two critical elements your brain thrives on. Here are some more nutritional recommendations to keep your mind as sharp as a tack:

•Protein – your brain thrives on protein, especially lysine and arginine. It helps build brain cells. Good sources are fish, eggs, yogurt, and nuts.

•Water - Your brain is also over 80% water, so going around in a state of dehydration drains your brain power as much as it saps the rest of you. Drink half your weight in water every day!

•Fats – Your brain also contains a large percentage of fat. That’s why Omega-3 fats and ALA (alpha-linoleic acid) fats are so beneficial. Omega-3 fats help brain cells communicate and absorb new information. Best sources are fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, avocado, and olive oil. ALA helps sharpen sensory receptors so that you can smell, taste, and obtain pleasure from your senses. Best sources are flax seeds/oil.

•Dark Chocolate – the higher the percentage of cacao (75% or more), the better. Dark chocolate delivers a chemical called serotonin to your brain that puts it into “chill” mode, calms it (and you!) down, and gives you a happy, even mood. Go for organic varieties.

•B Vitamins - especially B12 and niacin, either in supplement form or by eating spinach, kale, arugula, and other B loaded vegetables.

•Coffee – Coffee is a true brain sharpener. Studies show that most people think quicker and clearer after having a cup of coffee, or 2, in the morning, or during “slump time” in the afternoon. The trick with coffee is not to overdo too much of a good thing. 2-4 cups a day is a safe level. Beyond that amount, you can stress your adrenals and kidneys, dehydrate yourself, cause heart palpitations, headaches, and diarrhea. Try half-calf coffees to get a little caffeine boost without all the side effects.

•Carbs – Carbs are beneficial to both your brain and the rest of you! They help create serotonin, as well as dopamine and norepinephrine, all “feel good” brain chemicals that keeps your brain humming along. Go for low glycemic index, slow carbs, like fresh fruit, legumes, and whole grains like oats, brown/wild rice, and quinoa.

•Blueberries and Pomegranates – especially wild blueberries, and pomegranate fruit versus the juice. Both contain high levels of antioxidants which research shows protects your memory and improve thinking.

•DMAE and Gingko – two brain superstars, helps with memory, and clear thinking.

Play Mind Games

In addition to feeding your brain an optimal, power-boosting diet, look for ways to improve your thinking and memory like playing brain games and doing other brain-stimulating activities. Here are a few simple, free/very low cost ones you can do:

•Switch your dominant hand – if you’re right handed, trying doing many or all of your activities with your left hand for a day or two. This can be as simple as using your left hand to “mouse” while doing computer work or brushing your teeth. This helps stimulate the less used side of your brain for balance between the hemispheres.

•Do crossword puzzles – provides stimulation to the word-finding areas of your brain, stimulates memory, and increases your word bank.

•Brain-training games – there are a few websites on the internet that offer some fun and stimulating visual games designed to boost your brain capacity. Check a few of them out in your free time. One interesting one is www.playwithyourmind.com/ .

•Do a jigsaw puzzle – the more pieces it has, the better. This helps your brain do spatial problem solving by searching for the correct shapes to fit together.

•Get a Rubik cube – remember that frustrating cube from years ago? Turns out not only to be a brainteaser but a brain stimulator. It helps your brain solve visual spatial problems and coordinate patterns. And, they’re fun!

•Build a house of cards – if you have some time on your hands, try building a house out of a deck of cards. It not only teaches you patience but also stimulates your creative and visual spatial centers of your brain. Try for a two-story with several rooms!

•Do something different – get up on the other side of the bed, take a different route to work, eat somewhere else at lunch. In short give your brain a reason to wake up!

Getting older doesn’t have to mean losing your memory or being unable to learn new things. Your brain, like the rest of your body, needs to be used frequently and taken good care of. You need to fire up those brain cells frequently with exercise and good nutrition to keep your brain (and the rest of you) in good shape and functioning efficiently.

Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
Institute For Healthy Aging


Author's Bio: 

Mark Rosenberg M.D. is director of the “Institute of Anti-Aging” in South Florida. He is a highly sought-after speaker for lectures on topics such as integrative cancer therapy and anti-aging medicine. Dr. Rosenberg is avidly involved in supplement research and is nutritional consultant for Vitalmax Vitamins.