Memory Maximizers: Mild Cognitive Impairment; Choline-Rich Diet for Brain Function

Here's the latest research to help you keep your brain sharp.

MENTAL STIMULATION HELPS WARD OFF MILD COGNITIVE IMPAIRMENT

Yet another study has attested to the benefits of staying mentally active in older age.

The research, published March 2017 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, followed more than 1,900 men and women 70 years of age or older for about four years in an effort to determine whether mentally stimulating activity could help reduce the risk of new-onset mild cognitive impairment (MCI). The study found that participants who played games, worked on computers, and engaged in other mentally stimulating pursuits reduced their risk of developing MCI even in late life.

With that in mind, we offer a few suggestions for brain-stimulating exercises that can give your gray cells a workout. Many more can be found on Web sites such as www.sharpbrains.com/, www.braingle.com, http://games.aarp.org/, and www.brainbashers.com.

Challenge # 1: Find the three consecutive letters of the alphabet that can be added as a unit to the letters AME to form a six-letter word. Do the same with the letters ATE, and ACK. Can you think of other, similar combinations? (See the bottom of page 7 for answers.)

Challenge # 2: Draw a large square and divide it into 36 equal squares. Distribute 12 chessmen on this “game board” so that there is only one man to a square, and a total of only two men to each diagonal, column, and row. There are multiple solutions to this puzzle—how many can you find?

Challenge # 3: Name three animals beginning with each letter of your full name, using different animals each time. Repeat the exercise with objects, geographical locations, plants, and so forth. For a bigger challenge, try to find four or five items for each letter.

Challenge #4: Memorize the 50 states in the Union. Once you’ve mastered the list, memorize their capitals and locations on a map of the U.S. Now recite the 50 states in alphabetical order. Then recite them BACKWARDS, in reverse alphabetical order.

Challenge # 5: While you’re waiting for an appointment or standing in line, look around you and, giving yourself one minute, try to find five black objects that will fit into your pocket or your purse, and five blue objects that are too big to fit.

A CHOLINE-RICH DIET LEADS TO BETTER BRAIN FUNCTION, RESEARCHERS FIND

A diet that includes plenty of choline—a nutrient found in abundance in red meats, egg yolks, and soy and lima beans—helps protect against cognitive decline, according to recent research. Scientists looked at levels of phosphatidylcholine, a dietary source of choline, in the bloodstream of 72 healthy older adults, studied their brain structure using brain scans, and administered cognitive tests. They found that participants with higher blood levels of phosphatidylcholine had more gray cells in a region of the brain called the prefrontal cortex, and tests demonstrated that they had greater cognitive flexibility, attention, and ability to manage competing tasks. “Our findings add to a growing body of research suggesting that particular nutrients may slow or prevent age-related declines in cognition by influencing specific structures within the brain,” said a co-author of the study, which was published Sept. 28, 2016 in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. He theorized that choline protects the brain from the effects of aging “by supporting the structure of brain membranes, reducing inflammation, or contributing to the production of neurotransmitters that support cognition.”

Good sources of choline include: peanuts, egg yolks, meat, liver, poultry, fish, shellfish, dairy foods, pasta, rice, wheat, lima beans, soy beans, cruciferous vegetables, spinach, and beets.

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