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How healthy is your brain?

(ARA) - What are the secrets to maintaining a healthy brain? According to a first-of-its-kind index, it may depend on where you live. If you live in the District of Columbia, you can consider yourself among the healthiest brains in America, according to the first comprehensive state-by-state measure of the nation's brain health.

The life'sDHA Index of Brain Health evaluated the 50 states and the District of Columbia based on 21 brain health indicators in the areas of diet, physical health, mental health and social well-being. The top 10 ranking geographies in the nation for brain health are the District of Columbia, Maryland, Washington state, Vermont, Connecticut, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maine and New Hampshire. The two states that could use a brain boost, after ranking the lowest in the nation, are Alabama and Louisiana.

The Index indicates that residents of the top 10 brain-healthy states tend to make smart nutritional choices, watch their waistlines, avoid smoking, read for personal interest and put a high priority on education.

Residents of the top three ranking geographies - the District of Columbia, Maryland and Washington state - claim to consume high amounts of DHA omega-3, the good fat for maintaining your mental muscle that can be found in DHA-fortified foods, supplements and certain fish, including salmon and trout.

Residents of the nation's capital also tout the amount of time they spend with their noses in a book, ranking tops in the country (tying with Alaska) in reading for personal interest. Fifth-ranked Connecticut gets an "A" for making quality education a priority and in ninth-ranked Maine, residents keep their minds sharp through active game playing, which research has shown can help protect against dementia later in life.

Here are some things you can start doing today to maintain better brain health:

Feed your body and brain

While you're thinking about the foods to eat for energy, it is equally important to choose foods with brain-enhancing nutrients to promote optimal brain health. This includes eating cold-water fatty fish like salmon or trout, which are high in DHA. If you don't eat fish, you can find DHA in fortified foods, beverages and supplements that have a pure algae-based source - algae is the original source for how fish get their DHA in the first place.

"DHA omega-3 is one of the good fats for promoting and sustaining brain health throughout life," says Elizabeth Somer, M.A., R.D. "Since the body doesn't make enough of it on its own, eating foods and supplements rich in this healthy fat is essential."

DHA is the only omega-3 shown to provide brain, eye and heart health benefits. When grocery shopping, make sure to look for "DHA" on the labels to ensure you are getting the right kind of omega-3. The World Health Organization recommends an intake of 220 mg of DHA per day for healthy adults, but research shows that the average U.S. consumer takes in less than 100 mg of DHA per day.

Meanwhile, colorful fruits and vegetables such as red grapes, cranberries and tomatoes provide defense against free radicals and help flush them from your body and protect your brain.

Live life to the fullest

Make an effort to make wise lifestyle decisions. Engage in at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day, get adequate sleep each night and quit smoking. These are three smart choices that can contribute to optimal brain health.

Maintain your mental muscle

Continue training and sharpening your mental muscle. Challenge your brain with a new game, do a puzzle, learn a new language or consider working a hobby job to help keep your mind fresh.

Become a people person

Engage in social activities and socialize with friends to stay connected. Being social can relieve stress and boost brain health. Volunteering, participating in clubs and attending religious services fit the bill as well.

If you'd like to learn more about how your state ranked in the index and review a full listing of the 21 brain health indicators, visit www.lifesDHAindex.com. While there, spend a few minutes taking the life'sDHA Brain Health Quiz and challenge your friends and family to test their brain health, too.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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