Ten Ways to Make Yourself Smarter

Improving cognitive function is important

1. Exercise

Exercise encourages your brain to work at optimum capacity by causing nerve cells to multiply, strengthening their interconnections and protecting them from damage. During exercise nerve cells release proteins known as neurotrophic factors which benefit cognitive function including learning. Exercise also provides protective effects to your brain through:

  • The production of nerve-protecting compounds
  • Greater blood flow to your brain
  • Improved development and survival of neurons
  • Decreased risk of cardiovascular diseases such as stroke

Neuroscience. 2010 Jun 2;167(4):1239-48

Journal of Applied Physiology February 15, 2012 vol. 112 no. 4 552-559

2. Animal-Based Omega-3 Fats

Docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, an omega-3 fat, is an essential structural component of both your brain and retina. Approximately 60 percent of your brain is composed of fats-25 percent of which is DHA. DHA-rich foods include fish, liver, organ meats, and lesser amounts in butter and eggs, Natural fats in general are brain healthy foods, abandon the debunked low-fat dogma commonly being advised and get back to consuming healthy traditional fats

Alzheimer's and Dementia 2010 Nov;6(6):456-64

Nutritional Neuroscience 2008 Apr;11(2):75-83

3. Sleep

Sleep is not only essential for regenerating your physical body, but it is imperative for reaching new mental insights and being able to see new creative solutions to old problems. Sleep removes the blinders and helps "reset" your brain to look at problems from a different perspective, which is crucial to creativity.

Research from Harvard indicates that people are 33 percent more likely to infer connections among distantly related ideas after sleeping, but few realize that their performance has actually improved. Sleep is also known to enhance your memories and help you "practice" and improve your performance of challenging skills. In fact, a single night of sleeping only four to six hours can impact your ability to think clearly the next day.

Psychological Science August 2006; 17(8): 670

American Association of the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting, San Diego, California, February 21, 2010

4. Coconut Oil

One of the primary fuels your brain needs is glucose, which is converted into energy. Your brain actually manufactures its own insulin to convert glucose in your bloodstream into the food it needs to survive. If your brain's production of insulin decreases, your brain literally begins to starve, as it's deprived of the glucose-converted energy it needs to function normally. This is what happens to Alzheimer's patients -- portions of their brain start to shrink, or starve, leading to impaired functioning and eventual loss of memory, speech, movement and personality.

Fortunately, your brain is able to run on more than one type of energy supply, and this is where coconut oil enters the picture. The substance in question is called ketone bodies or ketoacids. Ketones are what your body produces when it converts fat (as opposed to glucose) into energy, and a primary source of ketone bodies are the medium chain triglycerides (MCT) found in foods like Coconut oil, which contains about 66 percent MCTs.

5. Vitamin D

Activated vitamin D receptors increase nerve growth in your brain, and researchers have also located metabolic pathways for vitamin D in the hippocampus and cerebellum of the brain, areas that are involved in planning, processing of information, and the formation of new memories. Studies have shown that low vitamin D levels are associated with poorer brain function, and increasing levels may help keep older adults mentally fit. Because of our latitude it hard to get enough vitamin d from sun exposure so I recommend consulting with a nutritionist who is skilled in getting your vitamin d levels into the high normal range.

J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2009 Jul;80(7):722-9.

6. Optimize Your Gut Flora

Your gut is your "second brain," and your gut bacteria transmits information to your brain via the vagus nerve, the tenth cranial nerve that runs from your brain stem into your enteric nervous system (the nervous system of your gastrointestinal tract). There is a close connection between abnormal gut flora and abnormal brain development, and just as you have neurons in your brain, you also have neurons in your gut -- including neurons that produce neurotransmitters like serotonin, which is also found in your brain and is linked to mood. Quite simply, your gut health can impact your brain function, psyche, and behaviour, as they are interconnected and interdependent in a number of different ways.

7. Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12, or rather a lack thereof, has been called the "canary in the coalmine" for your future brain health, and recent research has bolstered the importance of this vitamin in keeping your mind sharp as you age. According to the latest research, people with high levels of markers for vitamin B12 deficiency were more likely to score lower on cognitive tests, as well as have a smaller total brain volume, which suggests a lack of the vitamin may contribute to brain shrinkage.

Neurology. 2011 Sep 27;77(13):1276-82.

Neurology. 2010 Oct 19;75(16):1402-3.

PLoS ONE 5(9): e12244.

8. Listen to Music

It's long been theorized that listening to music may boost your brainpower; often referred to as the "Mozart Effect," which suggests listening to classical music can make you smarter. There is some research that suggests this effect.

Heart Lung. 2003 Nov-Dec;32(6):368-73.

9. Challenge Your Mind

One of the simplest methods to boost your brain function is to keep on learning. The size and structure of neurons and the connections between them actually change as you learn. This can take on many forms above and beyond book learning to include activities like traveling, learning to play a musical instrument or speak a foreign language, or participating in social and community activities.

Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2009 Feb;17(2):116-26.

10 Herbal Medicines

Ginkgo biloba is highly recommended as a regular tonic to maintain and improve cognitive function, and enhance circulation to the brain. There are other herbal vascular tonics that may be helpful also.


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