5 Brain Boosters

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5 Brain Boosters

LOSING YOUR KEYS twice a day is cute when you're 22, but gets a little worrisome when you're 42—perhaps nothing about getting older is as disconcerting as the feeling your memory is going. No matter what your age, there's a lot you can do to keep your brain in full working order.

"Scientific evidence indicates that mental activity, a healthy diet, physical exercise, and stress reduction are important not only for improving memory, but also for reducing your risk of Alzheimer's disease," says Gary Small, M.D., director of the UCLA Longevity Center at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience & Human Behavior and author of The Memory Bible. "Combining these approaches results in a very dramatic effect in a short period. When we measured PET scans, there were significant increases in brain efficiency. In fact, in two weeks some people showed a 200 percent improvement in memory scores, which is comparable to losing 20 years [of memory impairment]."

There are a number of steps—and supplements--you can take to protect or even improve the health of your brain. Supplements—while potentially valuable—can never take the place of healthy life choices. In the end, what succeeds in preserving and improving memory isn't any one natural therapy, but a mixture of them. "The most dramatic effects appear to occur when you combine strategies," says Small. "You're keeping yourself young by getting enough vitamins and nutrients, eating healthy fats and carbohydrates, having smaller meals more frequently, exercising your mind and body, sleeping better, and reducing stress." The following supplements show documented benefits that will go right to your head:

ginkgo biloba
WITH ITS REPUTATION for improving cerebral circulation and aiding memory, ginkgo biloba has long had pride of place when it comes to natural supplements that build brainpower. TIn a study published in Phytotherapy Research, adult volunteers taking ginkgo improved several measures of memory compared with a group taking a placebo.

How to use it: To counter or prevent failing memory and concentration, take 120 to 240 milligrams of standardized extract daily; it usually takes several months to see results.