HEALTHY LIVING
07/18/2013 08:09 am ET

Brain Power: 4 Surprising Ways To Keep Your Mind Young

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As you grow older, you may fret about your money, your muffin top and, at times, your marbles. How can you make sure your mind stays fit and sharp as you age?

Most people have heard of doing "mental gymnastics" such as crossword puzzles and math problems in order to stimulate new connections between nerve cells. But there are various other more surprising ways you can help ward off age-related memory loss. Here are just four of them below.

1. Watch nature documentaries.
A recent study published in the journal PLoS ONE found that people who watch nature documentaries actually score better on language skill tests than those who completed online tests and other brain games. Those who watched nature documentaries also reported having less stress and a greater quality of life. Even so, researchers said that brain games still could be useful for some people.

2. Keep cholesterol levels down.
A study from 2009 found that even moderately high cholesterol levels in your 40s put people at greater risk for Alzheimer's and dementia. It appears, according to researchers, that what benefits the heart also benefits the mind. Therefore, you can reduce your risk of getting dementia by lowering your cholesterol. The study is part of a larger body of research that focuses on the importance of addressing dementia risk factors in midlife. (In addition, a separate study found that obese middle-aged people experience a more rapid mental decline than those who aren't obese.)

3. Take care of your teeth.
Believe it or not, visiting the dentist twice a year and flossing regularly may not just be good for your teeth and gums -- it also may be good for your mind. A recent study showed that good oral health care was associated with a lower risk of dementia. Researchers followed nearly 5,500 older people for 18 years and discovered that those who brushed their teeth less than once a day were up to 65 percent more likely to get dementia than those who brushed every day. As a result, researchers advised people to floss and brush daily.

4. Drink green tea.
A study from 2012 showed that green tea can boost cognitive abilities -- especially in men. Although only a dozen people were evaluated, the study was the first to use MRI technology to see exactly what impact epigallocatechin-3-gallate (ECGC), a flavonoid in green tea, has on the brain. But many recent studies have found green tea to protect against Alzheimer's and positively impact the mind.

What do you think of the above? Do you have any other suggestions for how to boost brain power? Let us know in comments.

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