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As I approach the mid-century mark, I’m starting to do things like pay attention to my cognitive functioning—did I already mention this?  Recently, I came across some suggestions from Dr. Marc Milstein, a smart guy with a PhD in biological chemistry, on keeping your brain young.

Here are Dr. Milstein’s suggestions…
  1. Go to sleep. As you sleep, your brain will be working to make synaptic connections which strengthen one’s memory.
  2. Learn something new. According to Dr. Milstein, during sleep, your brain also does some housekeeping, including things like getting rid of unnecessary stuff with norepinephrine, a brain chemical. You can boost your norepinephrine levels by learning something new.
  3. Stay engaged socially.
  4. Eat well. Avoid processed foods with long lists of ingredients. Michael Pollan (author of Omnivore’s Dilemma, and others) once said if your grandma wouldn’t recognize it, don’t eat it. Processed food can kill beneficial gut bacteria, which can lead to inflammation, which can lead to brain aging.
  5. Embrace some stress. People who have some stress in their life have younger brains.
  6. Practice some mindfulness exercises, which Dr. Milstein says has gone from New Age to mainstream. Here’s mine: breath in while saying, “My soul finds rest…” and breath out while saying, “In you alone.”
  7. Spend some time in nature if you’re not into #6, as five to ten minutes spent in nature can have the same effect.
  8. Get some physical exercise. Just walking 30-40 minutes a day can reduce the risk of losing one’s memory by a whopping 65%.

While not an item to add to the list, I was surprised to learn that when people are treated for diabetes, their risk drops below average, so some people at risk for Alzheimer’s are being prescribed diabetes medicines, according to the good doctor. Watch for more on this.

If my kids’ reactions to me are any indication, I’m probably already well down the path of losing my mental faculties. With any luck, the list above will help stem a further decline.