Last week, Lumosity, a popular “brain training” game found on phones and tablets everywhere, was fined $2,000,000 by the FTC over its claims of helping users excel at work and school and reduce or delay “cognitive impairment associated with age and other serious health conditions.” Lumosity has settled this fine and changed their marketing language to reflect less deceptive claims about their products. We have known this for a long time, and counsel patients that Lumosity may make you better at Lumosity, but the research is not there to understand if there is any long-term benefit. We encourage all our patients to keep their minds active and challenged, but a subscription service may not be “just what the doctor ordered…”
Here are some things that research does support to help you keep your mind fit and healthy as you age:
Maintain an Active and Challenged Mind: Crossword Puzzles, Sudoku, learning a new language, learning a challenging subject or reading books that make you ponder and think can all help maintain cognitive function. Keeping an active mind is extremely important to maintaining you level of functioning as you age. Just as less time out and about and more time on the couch will negatively affect your weight (and many other things), less time challenging your brain will also negatively affect your ability to function at your expected levels.
Diet: Your diet is tied very closely with your brain function. A healthier diet such as a Mediterranean diet or Zone diet will provide your body with the correct balance of nutrients to reduce inflammation and increase the quality of fuel your brain is receiving (your heart too!). But don’t think of diet as a one time, New Year’s resolution type of diet. To keep you brain functioning optimally and protect your body and brain from future diseases, such as Dementia’s you’ll need to make a permanent lifestyle change for the better.
Exercise: When you exercise, your brain produces BDNF. To learn more about this process, check out the book Spark by John Ratey. Long story short, the production of BDNF protects brain cells and keeps your brain functioning optimally and protects it from decline. Studies are showing that exercise alone can increase functional connectivity in the brain, something we all want to be as high as possible for optimal functioning. Exercise can also have a massive impact on “mental health” issues such as depression or anxiety. Feeling blue? Go for a run. This recent NY Times article gives a great synopsis on exercise and brain function.
Mindfulness, Meditation or Prayer: Scientific research is showing what observation has shown for centuries. Maintaining a daily practice of some type of mindfulness is extremely beneficial to cognitive function. There are great apps out there for those interested in dipping their toes in the mindfulness pond. We suggest Headspace, or Calm and to start slow with something you can commit to for the long-term.
Neurofeedback: If you need an outside boost, Neurofeedback may be your answer. Neurofeedback is a process of retraining your brainwaves using Operant Conditioning and EEG technology to harness the power of Neuroplasticity. Neurofeedback is used to correct underlying brain dysfunctions in either power, or connectivity and different techniques and technologies are used all over the country for different conditions. Kirk Cousins, the Washington Redskins quarterback has been doing Neurofeedback since college, and we work with many former NFL players battling with the after-effects of multiple concussions and head injuries during their careers. Neurofeedback can help ADHD, Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, Migraine, Insomnia and more, but it can also increase executive function, memory, attention, overall mood and protect against future cognitive decline. Find out more here.
Hormone Replacement Therapy: Regardless of where your hormones are being produced, their receptors are in your brain. Unbalanced hormones can cause brain fog, forgetfulness, decreased energy, depression, sleep issues and more. The proper balance and maintenance of your hormone levels can have a profound effect on your brain function. Find out more here…
Take a Multi-Modal Approach: Our programs at Carolina HealthSpan Institute involve all of the above and more to optimize your brain function and prevent future decline and onset of disease. To learn more or get an individualized brain focused wellness program created to fit your lifestyle and goals, come in for a free informational session with one of our Brain Coaches.
Update: 7/2018 – We recently launched the reconnect program. The ReConnect Program is based off the framework and fundamentals of The Bredesen Protocol® with variations based upon our clinical experience of improving the brain function of over 10,000 individuals. To learn more visit our cognitive decline page.