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Brain-boosting breakthroughs

New and Better Ways to Stay Sharp

Quick: What do polls say is the #1 concern of Americans over 50?

If you answered, “Good physical health,” you’d be close. “Social Security,” would be even closer.

But the #1 worry among aging Americans is holding on to a sharp mind.

A newly published study that spans 35 years identified 5 habits that boost your chances of staying sharp. And all of them will probably sound familiar to Journal readers:

  • Exercise
  • Eat well
  • Keep the weight off
  • Drink in moderation
  • Don’t smoke

Besides a host of other benefits, the study found following at least four of these guidelines cuts your risk of mental decline by a whopping 64%! And exercise had the strongest effect.1

University of Texas researchers recently identified one reason exercise may be so helpful. Regular aerobic exercise can boost blood flow to parts of the brain linked to thinking and memory.

In this study, inactive adults (aged 57 – 75) began exercising for one hour three times a week. Within 12 weeks, their cognitive powers and memory had improved.2

What’s really great about this news is it’s one of the first studies to suggest short-term exercise can have mental benefits.

Other research has revealed other ways to support clear thinking and a powerful memory. And they just may surprise you.

If you’ve been doing crossword puzzles and reading to keep your brain sharp, it may not be enough. A study published in October found that may not be enough.

They found the most effective mental exercises were “continuous and prolonged.” And they recommend learning something new and challenging – such as quilting or digital photography.3

Community-based continuing education and online learning are two ways to take advantage of this trick for keeping mentally sharp.

A number of nutritional supplements support clear thinking and a solid memory. But here’s one you may not have heard of. It’s closely related to vitamin A, though it’s not found in the typical Western diet in any large amount.

This nutrient is called astaxanthin (asta•zan•thin) The richest natural source is a tiny alga. Much smaller amounts are found in the animals that eat this little plant.

Astaxanthin is the most powerful antioxidant in the vitamin A family… and a study shows it’s especially effective against a free radical linked to mental decline.4

Astaxanthin is available as a nutritional supplement or in a number of antioxidant formulas.

Finally, if you like cinnamon, this will be great news. Early studies of two substances in cinnamon – cinnamaldehyde and epicatechin – are promising. They appear to block oxidation of a protein known to affect mental clarity and memory.5

It’s too soon to say whether this will work in people. But I’ll be following the story eagerly for you… along with others that may reveal ways to hold on to your mental edge and your memories.

Yours in continued good health,

Best Life Herbals Wellness Team

1 Elwood, P., et al, “Healthy Lifestyles Reduce the Incidence of Chronic Diseases and Dementia: Evidence from the Caerphilly Cohort Study,” PLOS One. Dec 9, 2013; DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0081877.

2 Chapman, S.B., et al, “Shorter term aerobic exercise improves brain, cognition, and cardiovascular fitness in aging,” Aug 23, 2013; Front. Aging Neurosci. 5:75. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2013.00075.

3 Carter, C., “Over 60s should do digital photography not crosswords to keep memory sharp,” The Telegraph. Oct 21, 2013.

4 Nakagawa, K., et al, “Antioxidant effect of astaxanthin on phospholipid peroxidation in human erythrocytes,” BJN. Jan 31, 2011; DOI: 10.1017/S0007114510005398.

5 George, R.C., et al, “Interaction of Cinnamaldehyde and Epicatechin with Tau: Implications of Beneficial Effects in Modulating Alzheimer’s Disease Pathogenesis,” Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. 2013; 36(1): 21-40.


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