Yes, It's a No-Brainer: Stay Active and Eat Your Greens

By Marilynn Preston

May 17, 2016 6 min read

Every 67 seconds, someone in America develops Alzheimer's.

I can't remember where I read this terrifying fact, but it stuck in my brain the way you remember your first lover or your last root canal. (Why can't I remember where I read that study? Is this a sign of age-related mental decline? Or just Trump-induced stress?)

Get me to the running path. A lifestyle that includes time in your day to walk, jog, bike, dance or even garden is one of the best ways you can stop kvetching about your memory and remember this: There are things you can do that can boost your brain power, even if the lights are dimming elsewhere.

GROW YOUR GRAY MATTER. The research is in, again and again: Physical activity is essential when it comes to growing your gray matter, particularly in those regions of the brain responsible for memory and higher-level thinking.

(An example of higher-level thinking would be tossing out all products with artificial sweeteners.)

According to an important new study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, brain scan studies now confirm what neuroscientists have been telling us for ages: Physical activity can prevent and postpone mental decline in aging brains. It can even substantially reduce the risk of Alzheimer's. Imagine that. No magic pills, no fetal-lamb-cell smoothies. Just you and your body in motion, a few times a week, and the researchers aren't talking about hardcore, super-strenuous workouts. Nope. That's part of the wonder of it all. Even recreational amounts of cycling, walking and pulling out weeds make a big difference when it comes to keeping your marbles.

EAT SMART. I'm not a fan of diet as a verb, but there are certain types of diets-as-a-noun that are worth discussing.

The latest for brain health is the MIND diet, developed by researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. (Full disclosure: Rush is my maiden name and Chicago is my hometown, but other than that, it's all a coincidence.)

The MIND diet is the love child of the DASH diet (targeted for lowering blood pressure) and the gold-standard Mediterranean diet. Besides blueberries, for the antioxidants, it also wants you to eat healthy fats such as salmon, nuts and olive oil.

Why? Because they are the fats your body needs to stay in balance and combat inflammation. Non-fat products, which are mostly fake foods, don't do that. I know it's counterintuitive — as in, "Doesn't fat make you fat?" — but the bottom line is, nutrition-wise, you can't fool Mother Nature. Well, you can for a while, but she will probably mess with your brain and make you gain weight.

MIND YOUR GREENS. The MIND diet also includes eating leafy greens. The Rush University researchers found that people who ate two servings a day had the cognitive ability of someone 11 years younger. Eleven years younger!

Talk about nuts. It's crazy to think how much money the country could save if citizens started making healthy food choices instead of the ad-induced kind.

"Alzheimer's is the most expensive disease in the country," says the Alzheimer's Association, advertising these days on Politico, where I hope they are getting through to decision-makers.

"Every hour, Alzheimer's costs the country $18.3 million dollars. Today, Alzheimer's costs the country $236 billion a year and that will quadruple to more than $1 trillion over the next generation."

That blows my mind. A trillion dollars ain't chicken feed, which is also likely to be a cause of Alzheimer's, but I digress.

TURN OFF THE TV. I know small-screen activity is pretty irresistible, but resist you must if you want a strategy to save your brain. A 2005 study in the journal Brain and Cognition found that for people between the ages of 40 and 59, the risk of Alzheimer's went up 1.3 times with every added hour of TV they watched per day. It's an old study, but 11 years later, we're swimming even deeper in the soup of small-screen disturbance and Distraction Disease is rampant. Attention deficit disorder is just another way of saying "I've got to check my email one more time." A meditation practice — even 10 minutes a day — is one wise way to combat technology overload.


"I like nonsense; it wakes up the brain cells." — Dr. Seuss

Marilynn Preston — healthy lifestyle expert, well being coach and Emmy-winning producer — is the creator of Energy Express, the longest-running syndicated fitness column in the country. She has a website,, and welcomes reader questions, which can be sent to [email protected] She also produces EnExTV, a digital reincarnation of her award-winning TV series about sports, fitness and adventure, for kids of all ages, at and To find out more about Preston and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

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