Plan a healthy summer with mental activities

Posted Wednesday, Jul. 17, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Ah, those lazy, hot days of summer. Think vacations, picnics and fun times with friends. It’s a good time for the entire family to relax and avoid any heavy mental lifting.

“Maintaining good brain health is a year-round activity,” says Dr. Donna Shannon, an independently practicing primary care physician on the medical staff at Methodist Mansfield Medical Center. “Physical activity keeps our muscles in shape, and mental activity keeps our brain in shape.”

Here are a few fun easy ways to help keep everyone's brain healthy this summer.

Get physical. “Go outside with the kids for some hiking, biking, swimming or aerobic exercise to get the heart pumping. This helps to keep the brain fed with a healthy supply of blood and oxygen,” explains Shannon. It can even spur the production of new brain cells, according to the Alzheimer's Association, whose study links fitness in midlife with a reduced risk for dementia in older age.

“Just make sure all bike riders wear a helmet,” she says. “It helps protect the brain from trauma in case of an accident or fall.”

Read. “Go to your local library and read a book or read while lounging at the pool,” Shannon recommends. “Break out word games for family game night. These games help reinforce spelling and math skills. They can also force you to think and can increase brain cells and solidify their connections.”

Serve some food for thought. Summer is the perfect time to go your local farmers market for foods high in brain-friendly antioxidants. “Look for dark-colored vegetables, like kale, spinach, broccoli and beets, and berries that are blue, black and red. Cherries and plums are also good choices and have been noted to help with joint health as well,” Shannon says.

When firing up the grill, consider salmon, trout, mackerel or other fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for the brain.

And, finally, don't forget that all-time favorite summer food, corn on the cob. “It's a brain pleaser, but please avoid the butter. Eating too many foods high in cholesterol and saturated fat, like butter, may raise the risk for high cholesterol,” said Shannon.

Take steps today toward a healthier life by exercising regularly and making smart food choices to look and feel better. If you’re ready to get started, contact a primary care physician to make sure that your goals are healthy ones. Don’t have a physician? Visit MethodistHealthSystem.org/FindAPhysician or call 877-637-4297.

-- Texas law prohibits hospitals from practicing medicine. The physicians on the Methodist Health System medical staff are independent practitioners who are not employees or agents of Methodist Health System or Methodist Mansfield Medical Center.

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