cognitive strength

What to Know When Seeking Ways to Boost Brain Power

NBC Universal, Inc.

Feeling more forgetful these days? You're not alone. A lot of people are looking to boost their brain power.

But what really works to preserve, or even enhance, your thinking skills — and what should you avoid?

Many of us are shopping for ways to stay sharp, with everything from superfoods and supplements to online games. However, health experts say there are some products you may want to stay away from and could potentially pose a health risk.

Some memory issues are caused by lack of sleep, stress or just normal aging.

Trisha Calvo, Consumer Reports health editor

If forgetting where you put your keys, or not being able to remember someone’s name has you concerned about your memory, you are not alone. In a recent survey by Consumer Reports, one out of three Americans say they’ve noticed signs of forgetfulness significant enough to worry them.

“There’s obviously a big difference between forgetfulness and dementia," Consumer Reports health editor Trisha Calvo said. "Some memory issues are caused by lack of sleep, stress or just normal aging."

Do Any Supplements Help With Memory as You Age?

Maybe you’re considering trying one of the many dietary supplements sold as brain-boosters.

"While there's some research that shows omega-3 fatty acid supplements may be worthwhile for those with a family history of dementia, the majority of memory supplements have no benefit for most people," Calvo said.

And research has discovered unapproved drugs in some supplements, potentially posing a health risk. So it is important to talk with your doctor before using supplements.

What Are Some Activities to Boost Brain Power?

What about the brain-training games or programs sold as a way to sharpen your thinking skills? Hobbies such as learning to paint or listening to an educational podcast can also help. The same goes for physical activities such as tai chi, yoga or dance.

"Practicing the unfamiliar moves also helps your brain to create new neural pathways, and that’s especially true if you spend time learning a new skill with friends," Calvo said.

As with most aspects of living a long, higher-quality life, overall wellness — things like eating healthy and staying fit—can help reduce brain disease risk and maintain cognitive strength for years to come, meaning that living a healthy life may be a key part of reducing brain disease risks and maintaining cognitive strength.

It’s also always good to talk with your doctor about memory and cognitive issues so they can properly screen you for any serious medical conditions.

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