People Spent Nearly $2 Billion on Brain-Boosting Tech Last Year—but You Don’t Need an App to Stay Sharp

Photo: Getty Image/WestEnd61
Every once in a while, when I'm in the passionate throes of Tetris Blitz, I get an ad for one of those brain games. You know, the apps that say if you're able to make a bunch of words out of six letters, it'll strengthen your memory tenfold. I've always been skeptic 'cause I figure, like, opening a book might be better than swiping my screen, and that pause isn't unfounded. According to a recent report by MarketWatch, consumers have spent over $1.9 billion on digital brain health and neurotechnology—but evidence as to whether they actually work is a little, um, lacking.

While certain speed-of-processing cognitive training can lower risk of dementia, trying to fight the good fight against cognitive decline takes more than an app. Aside from brain games, we've got a pretty good idea as to what might help you stay sharp as a tack.

Dig into some mind-sharpening food

Loading up on fiber, for example, helps boost protective proteins in the brain, and you can get your fill from red cabbage or cauliflower. (As if you needed another reason to make buffalo cauliflower or cauliflower parmesan bites!) And here's some great news for fans of fungus: mushrooms have powerful antioxidants, and one recent study shows a link between mushroom lovers and a decreased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. And with the arrival of barbecue season, keep in mind that grass-fed organic red meat helps improve cognitive function, according to a study by UCLA.

Take up a dance fitness class

If you were consider signing up for that Ariana Grande workout class, we're in full support. Dance-based fitness classes strengthen your body and your brain. Such activities require more brain power and cognitive abilities as compared to leisurely walks on a treadmill while listening to a true-crime podcast. Learning new dance moves activates the hippocampus, a part of the brain that deals with memory. And keeping the hippocampus active is a great strategy for preventing cognitive decline. So yeah, Grande it up.

Kick off your sneaks and go barefoot

It doesn't have to be in a Britney-in-a-gas-station circa 2004 kind of way, but lose the shoes in your next yoga class. This strategy is called "earthing," and according to podiatrist Emily Splichal, DPM, it stimulates your nervous system. "The more we wear shoes, we take away that information between the feet and your brain," she says. "That’s why it’s important to be barefoot.”

Treat yourself to a glass a wine

In a study, it was shown that mild-to-moderate alcohol consumption promotes brain’s ability to remove toxins and damaging proteins (i.e., the things that promote dementia and Alzheimer's disease). The research was conducted using mice, but you know, even still.

Don't confuse it as an excuse to get wild at happy hour, though! You're not going to really remember much of anything if you go through rounds of tequila shots, so "mild-to-moderate" is really the keyword there.

Welcome to the golden age of nootropics, where coffee and chocolate team up to help your cognitive skills. And not that you should skip your breakfast, but pushing off the meal a bit later can make our minds sharper.

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