Boost your brain power on National Train Your Brain Day

Thursday marks National Train Your Brain Day.

Dr. Courtney Johnson, a clinical psychologist with the IUH Health Neuroscience Center, joined FOX59 Morning News to help viewers boost their brain power.

1. Sleep at least seven hours each night.

When you hit the hay each night, all the info you picked up during the day—from the details of your latest business deal to a recipe for lasagna—gets consolidated into your long-term memory. Exciting new research also shows that when you sleep, your brain clears out the kinds of toxins that can cause dementia.

2. Consider activities beyond the crossword.

We’ve all heard that doing a daily crossword is the key to staying smart, but once you master it, you should move on to something else. The benefit comes from challenging your brain by learning something new. Picking up a craft that requires reasoning and dexterity, like scrapbooking or quilting, is a great brain-booster.

3. Pencil in more time with your pals.

Researchers have found that people with large social groups and strong social ties have a significantly lower rate of developing dementia than those who keep to themselves. So joining a book club, inviting your neighbor over for coffee, or reaching out to high school pals you haven’t seen for years—and then learning and remembering all the details of your friend’s life—gives you a double brain benefit.

4. Fit in fitness.

Anything that’s healthy for the heart is healthy for the brain. Stay physically fit by taking daily walks or joining an exercise program (check with your doctor to see what level of activity your health can support). Why? Several studies have shown that exercise has multiple boosts for the brain, including greater blood flow in the area responsible for memory.

5. Eat smart.

Ongoing research at Indiana University and other institutions is finding that one of the most crucial factors to keeping your brain healthy is what you put in your stomach. The reason: Diets rich in nutrients not only nourish the body but the noggin as well, keeping all systems sharp. A heart-smart diet such as the Mediterranean or DASH is a good place to start, or simply plan meals that are high in fruit, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains and low in saturated fats and added sugar.

IU Health is taking part in the CARB Project to examine the benefits of brain and body training for older adults experiencing mild memory loss. Click here for more information about the study.