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Neuroscience: What are various ways to keep your brain healthy?

This question originally appeared on Quora. Answer by Michael Bartlett, health and nutrition expert.

Have you ever tried to remember important information only to find your mind is totally blank? No matter what, it seems like you just can’t find a way to remember a way to remember!

Well, you are not alone. Millions of people, both young and old, struggle to find ways to keep the brain healthy and memory sharp and strategies to remember important information. Fortunately, there are many ways to can help keep your brain health and sharp.

Keep your brain functioning sharp and lightning fast by managing your blood sugar levels and reducing inflammation in your body.

Remember to Eat Your Brain Food

We tend to focus on eating healthy as a way to maintain our physical health, but we rarely think to eat foods that support brain health. We know now that foods that damage your brain also damage your heart (Here’s a list of the top 15 foods that damage your brain and heart).

Make sure your thyroid is also in good health - do this by eating the top foods for thyroid health. The foods you eat - especially foods that are rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids are essential in supporting your memory, mental alertness, and overall brain health. These brain healthy foods include:

  • Blueberries
  • Nuts
  • Salmon
  • Avocados
  • Coffee

Why Does Memory Fade?

According to researchers at John Hopkins University, memory and mental sharpness tends to fade as we age. Decreasing mental aptitude is a result of degrading pathways to the hippocampus, the area of the brain where memory occurs. Interestingly, the increasing difficulty of storing new information and memories also explains why older people tend to focus on the “good old days.” In fact, as the informational pathway becomes more difficult to access, people tend to rely on the memories already stored - not on storing new memories.

While most people blame a degrading memory on age or stress, there is no reason you have to think it is normal or even accept it. Fortunately, research shows that specific mental exercises, foods, and memory devices that are very effective at keeping the “hippocampus highway” wide open and your brain sharp and alert.

Work Out Your Brain’s Muscle

Regardless of age, you are able to train your brain to continuously generate new cells and new neuropathological connections. Like any muscle in the body, the brain needs regular exercise and challenge to continue growing and functioning at a high level.

Scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that maintaining mental sharpness requires participating in frequent and challenging tasks that target areas of the brain rarely used.

For example, learning a new language, taking an adult education class, playing a musical instrument, or completing a crossword puzzle all stimulate the creation of new neurological pathways that increase mental capacity and maintain mental function and cognitive function.

Keep Your Brain Sharp with the Five W’s

Keeping your brain healthy is important, but sometimes you just need a way to remember important information. In other words, when important information requires storing in your memory, attach the info to specific questions that you can answer; you can easily achieve this by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Who did that?
  • What happened?
  • When did it take place?
  • Where did it take place?
  • Why did that happen?

The 5 w’s works by providing your brain with “anchors” - or specific words (who, what, when, where, and why) to attach specific information to. While using this tip will require some initial practice - once mastered, your brain will create specific neural paths that use the 5 Ws to quickly and accurately access the important information you decide to attach to them.

So, keep your brain strong and healthy by eating foods rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, engaging in regular physical and mental exercise, and by unleashing your inner detective by asking who, what, when, where, and why.

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