About This Book

Inspiring Chicken Soup for the Soul stories and accessible leading-edge medical information from Dr. Marie Pasinski of Harvard Medical School. Many people would like to enhance their brainpower and are looking for help to do just that. Others are retraining their brains after traumatic injuries or strokes. Others are looking for ways to keep their brains young and dynamic. This book will fascinate you with stories and useful information on how to improve your own brain.

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Five Tips for Keeping Your Brain Strong

Inspired by Chicken Soup for the Soul: Boost Your Brain Power!
By Dr. Marie Pasinski of Harvard Medical School with Liz Neporent

You may spend hours at the gym each week working on your body and staying in shape, but have you done anything lately to strengthen your brain? Neurologist Dr. Marie Pasinski argues that the brain is the most important organ in your body. In her new book, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Boost Your Brain Power!, she explains that it is never too late to redesign and reenergize your mind, no matter what your age. Here are five tips to keep your intellect sharp and your brainpower at full throttle, with some real-life examples from the stories included in the book.

1. Remember to exercise your brain muscle. Many of us have stopped flexing our memory muscles, especially since we've ceded a good portion of our memory skills to electronic devices. The good news is that by challenging your memory, no matter what its current condition, you can make improvements. When Dr. Pasinski was a waitress as a young adult, she challenged herself to remember all her orders without writing them down. This little exercise served as great training for later in life, giving her an edge during medical school, and still helps her today as a busy neurologist. Like any other brain function, practice makes perfect. The more you work on improving your memory, the stronger it will become.

2. Use social stimulation to maintain cognitive function. High quality social connections appear to protect against cognitive decline. Recent studies show a 25 percent reduction in the risk of developing dementia among seniors who report feeling satisfied with the relationships in their lives. When Jacqueline Seewald asked her 95-year-old mother-in-law, who still lived independently, how she kept her mind sharp, she said it was all about her social interactions. "For me, it's contact with family and friends. Since I can't get around the way I used to do, I talk on the telephone. It keeps me connected. I also sit out on the front porch and observe what's going on in the neighborhood. Sometimes neighbors drop by and visit," she says.

3. Continuing your education reduces your risk of Alzheimer's and dementia. If you continue to challenge your mind, embrace new activities and acquire new skills you can continue to build new neural connections indefinitely. One proven way to do this is to pursue as much education as possible. Studies show that the more time you've spent hitting the books, the lower the risk of Alzheimer's. Patricia Gordon retired early at age 49, so she decided to take a college Japanese language course so she could communicate with extended family. Although it was difficult for her to keep up at first, she stuck with it and found many benefits. Patricia says "Even though I was busier, going to class and doing the homework, I was better able to keep my appointments, even when Dad passed away suddenly and I had to take care of hundreds of details for Mom. I found myself remembering names and directions. And I became more efficient with my time."

4. Eat right and exercise to keep your brain young. Exercise just may be the most potent brain booster of all. It is guaranteed to enhance the very structure of your brain, improve your memory, uplift your mood, protect against stroke and decrease your risk of Alzheimer's disease. Moving your body on a regular basis is better than any pill, prescription or over-the-counter supplement for preserving and enhancing the structure and function of the brain. Novelist and writing instructor Dallas Woodburn always gets funny looks when she tells her students that exercise will improve their writing, but it is something she learned firsthand. "Exercise remains an integral part of my daily routine. And not just for my writing—I've found that exercise makes me feel more balanced, mentally sharp and in touch with my emotions, which positively affects all facets of my life," Dallas says.

5. Get enough sleep for a fully functioning brain. Beyond improved memory, concentration, reasoning and mood, scientists agree that sweet dreams are critical for maintaining a healthy brain and body. Experts suggest the average person needs between seven and nine hours a night. Marla Thurman was having trouble sleeping, and it was affecting almost every aspect of her life. "Everything bad in life was made worse by the simple lack of sleep. A writer and a tutor, I found I couldn't concentrate. My memory failed. I forgot simple things," Marla says. When she was diagnosed with sleep apnea and given a machine that helped her rest, she was amazed at the difference it made. "I immediately felt like myself again. My memory functioned normally. I could even read books!"

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