Picture of a statue model with a brain

By Dr. Willie T. Ong (Internist-Cardiologist)

How can we become smarter? Are there scientific ways to increase our brain’s capacity? Let’s find out.

According to Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Michael Roizen, a study shows that, on the average, an adult person’s intelligence (measured by IQ) decreases by 5% every ten years. But this is just the average. The good news is that there were some people in the study whose IQ even increased as they aged. Here are the ten secrets to increase your brainpower.

Take a 45-minute walk.

The poet Robert Frost used to have long walks in the woods while creating his next poem. Walking helped him think better. This is medically sound because walking improves the circulation in our body and our brain. This increase in blood flow to the brain will make it sharper and help us think more clearly.

Stretch your brain.

Doctors found out that intelligent people have more cross-circuitry in their brains. The nerve cells are more connected and have more interaction with each other. How do we stimulate the growth of these nerve cells? One way is to expose your mind constantly to new challenges. Don’t be contented with what you can do today, strive to learn more. Solve crossword puzzles and sudoku. Don’t retire. Another technique is to read a magazine or talk to an expert in a field that is totally alien to you. Keep on learning and studying.

Try some brain food

Yes, there is such a thing. The top foods for the brain are (1) an ounce of nuts a day, which are filled with good oils; (2) oily fish, like tuna, tilapia, sardines, salmon and catfish, with omega-3 fatty acids; (3) olive oil and avocados, are likewise filled with omega-3; (4) Cocoa and dark chocolate have healthy flavonoids which keeps the arteries young; and (5) tomato-based foods, like spaghetti sauce, have folate and lycopene that fight aging.

Take supplements

Among the proven supplements for the brain and heart, the leading contender is Omega 3 fish oil supplements. These have been proven to increase blood flow to the brain and heart. It prevents strokes, heart attacks, and depression. Recent studies show Omega-3 supplements may be beneficial for Alzheimer’s disease. Vitamin B complex tablets (with Folate) can also help protect you from a stroke. Folate reduces dangerous homocysteine build-up leading to cracks in the arteries.

Consider aspirin 80 mg tablets

If there was a list of pills that can be considered wonder drugs, aspirin will probably top the list. Discovered in 1899, aspirin has been proven to help patients with heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes. Aspirin makes our blood thinner and helps reduce clots in the blood vessels of the heart and brain. Men over 50 and women after menopause should consider taking an aspirin 80 mg tablet, once a day after meals. However, aspirin is not perfect because it can cause stomach ulcers in some patients. Consult your doctor first.

Have friends older or younger than you

According to a Professor of Gerontology, Dr. David Demko, having friends older or younger than you can help stimulate your brain. Young people can learn from the wisdom of older people. And older people can imbibe the energy and zest of the young. It works both ways. Keep yourself open to new things and new perspectives.

Learn to cope with stress

Having a constant stress causes the body to release a stress hormone, called cortisol, which is detrimental to the body in the long run. Try to avoid these stresses if you can. Find a better job, resolve difficult relationship, and fix your health problem. On the other hand, short-term stresses, like projects, deadlines or making a speech, are not harmful. Laughter, meditation and deep breathing can help reduce stress. Laughing reduces anxiety and tension, and releases good hormones like endorphins.

Daydream away

Do you know that people who daydream often about their life’s goals, have a better chance of achieving them? Positive-thinking proponent, Norman Vincent Peale, even suggests writing your goals on a piece of paper and carrying it in your wallet. If you train your brain to reach a certain goal (like become a top businessman, sportsman or artist), then your brain will try to find ways to achieve this goal. Visualize success and you can achieve it.

Protect your head

This is just common sense advice to protect your brain. Wear a hard hat if needed. Wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle. Avoid boxing as a sport. Shout “fore” if you hit a wayward golf shot. And never let anybody hit your head. For the elderly, you can walk with someone you can hold on to, and invest in good shoes for better balance and stability.

Consult a doctor. Finally, when you need medical help, go the experts. Follow these ten tips so you can healthier and smarter.

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