Healthy Lifestyle Pays You Off in the Short-Term Too

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January 07, 2006 | 7,435 views

A four-pronged lifestyle program works to improve memory and brain efficiency in older adults in as little as two weeks, University of California researchers found.

The study involved 34 adults with normal memory who either made no lifestyle modifications or made the following changes as part of a "memory improvement plan" for 14 days:

Eating five small meals per day. This was done to prevent dips in blood sugar that can occur when three larger meals are eaten. The meals consisted of healthy foods including omega-3 fats, whole-grain carbohydrates and antioxidants.

Regular physical exercise. Participants took brisk walks daily and performed other physical conditioning to improve brain circulation. This has been linked to a decreased risk of Alzheimer's disease.

Stretching and relaxation exercises. This can help to temper the production of cortisol, a stress hormone, in the body. Cortisol can shrink the brain's memory centers and thereby impair memory.

Memory exercises. Participants performed brainteasers, crossword puzzles and other memory exercises to help improve their memory skills.

Your Brain Can be Used More Efficiently
The participants underwent positron emission tomography (PET) scans to measure brain activity before and after the study.

PET scans of those who followed the memory improvement plan had a significant decrease in brain metabolism in the brain area linked to working memory and cognitive functions. This means they were essentially using less brain power, or, in other words, were using their brains more efficiently.

Study participants ranged in age from 35 to 70, with an average age of 53 years. 

We all know that leading a healthy lifestyle will give you long-term benefits, but not many of us have the dedication and commitment to make changes that will benefit us 10, 20 or more years in the future.

Well, the good news is that by making these changes not only do you receive the long-term benefits but there are large numbers of immediate payoffs that will motivate you to stay with the program.

I especially noticed it this past year. I have weekly meetings with my therapists and we all follow the Total Health Program. It is very unusual for any of us to get sick during the winter months while most all of our family and friends who don't follow the program are regularly struggling with colds and winter flus.

I can confidently tell you that every day I have more energy than I know what to do with and enjoy the flexibility and stamina that I had when I was 30 years younger. You just simply don't have to be miserable with health problems as you age. You can retain virtually all of your function as you gracefully age.

If you've been procrastinating or resisting my suggestions to retool your diet based on your body's unique nutritional type or get the right amount of exercise every day because you can't see the light at the end of the tunnel, well, you can't use that excuse anymore.

This study spells it out loud and clear: You can actually improve your memory just by eating better, exercising, stretching and doing memory exercises for 14 days.

This doesn't even delve into the other benefits those changes could make to your energy level, mood and ability to resist disease.

So what are you waiting for? Make it your New Year's resolution or simply make up your mind to give it a chance. For at least two weeks, try improving your health by:

You certainly have all the free tools you need, including a nutritional typing test, to get you started. The moral of the story? It's never too late to start making healthy changes in your life.

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