Maryland may be one of the smallest states in the U.S. in terms of area but its residents have the healthiest brains in the country, according to a new report released Monday.
The 2014 America's Brain Health Index, which measured and ranked the brain health of 50 states and the District of Columbia using 21 factors including mental health, social well-being, diet and physical health, showed that Maryland has the healthiest brains in the country.
Maryland residents consume large amounts of fruits and vegetables as well as fish rich in DHA, which is associated with better brain health and is likely a factor for the small number of Alzheimer's-disease related deaths in the area. Prevalence of Alzheimer's disease is also low in Maryland and there are very few smokers. Maryland is followed by Washington State, Colorado, Connecticut, Alaska, District of Columbia, Vermont, New York, New Hampshire and Georgia.
The states found in the bottom of the list, on the other hand, were Iowa, Arkansas, Louisiana, North Dakota, Alabama, and Mississippi. Mississippi residents have low consumption of DHA-rich foods. Cardiovascular disease-related deaths as well as diabetes are also prevalent in the area.
Religious and spiritual activity involvements were factored in the rankings as they are considered to be associated with better mental health and notably, Maryland state residents do not have high levels of religious and spiritual activities while those living in Mississippi are strongly involved in religious and spiritual activities.
The America's Brain Health Index is part of "Beautiful Minds: Finding Your Lifelong Potential" campaign that hopes to encourage Americans to develop and maintain healthy and active minds through lifestyle changes.
Majid Fotuhi, chief medical officer of NeurExpand Brain Center and a lecturer at Harvard Medical School, said that nutrition plays an important role in brain health. "The bigger the belly, the smaller the brain," Fotuhi said.
Fotuhi also said that obesity, stress, a sedentary lifestyle and having conditions such as sleep apnea are bad for the brain while meditation, participation in group activities, physical exercise, healthy nutrition, memorization and learning new things can make the brain healthier.
"Your brain is constantly changing almost from day to day. The more you do good things, the more likely it is that you will have a strong brain as you grow older." Fotuhi said.
Beautiful Minds medical advisor Michael Roizen said it isn't difficult to have a healthy brain. "Keeping the brain healthy is easier than you realize," Roizen said. "Everyday actions such as maintaining a diet including good fats like DHA omega-3 and important nutrients such as vitamin E and lutein, and staying active physically, mentally and socially, are all good ways to influence long-term brain health."