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Games like crossword puzzles and sudoku are often practiced to keep brains flexing, but in the face of cognitive decline, physical strength training could also help maintain or improve cognition.

Ranier Castillo, a student in the USC Leonard Davis Master of Science in Nutrition, Healthspan and Longevity program, recently explored research regarding the connection between muscular strength and cognition for PULSE, a publication of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Here are his takeaways:

An Apple a Day — Along With Exercise and Brain Games — Keeps the Doctor Away

Taking a multifaceted approach to preventing cognitive decline proved most effective in the studies Castillo referenced. A balanced diet, exercise and cognitive training combine to fight anything from mild cognitive impairment to dementia.

Regarding diet, the research suggests consuming foods like dairy, fish/seafood, red meat and protein powders. Such foods contain creatine, an organic acid shown to positively affect brain health.

“Timing of protein intake is critical,” says Cary Kreutzer, director of the Nutrition, Healthspan and Longevity program. “Consuming higher-protein foods at each meal is preferable to once per day; depending on the individual, protein intake should be 20- 40 grams per meal. Seafood or lean meat contains 8 grams of protein per ounce.”

As for exercise, aerobic activities — such as running and swimming — work especially well against neurodegenerative diseases. Combining the above type of diet with aerobic workouts reportedly increases lean muscle mass, helping to maintain

No Need to Be Tom Brady

Different bodies often require different, specified workouts. What is too strenuous for one person might be too easy for another. Moderate- to high-intensity workouts have been shown to improve cognition, but beginners should start with lower-intensity workouts and work up to more difficult exercises.

Sports dietitians do not have to be resources for athletes only. In fact, consulting with a sports dietitian can help anyone to balance a diet and exercise plan while working toward improved cognitive health, providing expertise so that people can train properly and safely.

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