Your resume is your first opportunity to make a great impression on potential employers. Make sure yours does just that by avoiding some common resume blunders. The human resource experts we spoke to listed the following mistakes as the 9 résumé fails most likely to get your CV shredded faster than you can say "The position has already been filled."
1. Lies, fibs and exaggerated achievements "Be honest about your skills, achievements and work history. Exaggerating these things can come back at you when your potential employer does background checks or asks you to perform at a certain skill level the first day," says Debby Carreau, the president of Inspired HR in Calgary.
Sometimes it takes even less time to get busted.
Manny Pardo, the owner of Flour Girls, a pastry shop in Milton, Ont., recounts an interview that went south very fast: "The candidate had mentioned fluency in Spanish. While it was irrelevant to the position, I introduced myself in Spanish and he had no idea how to reply! I cut the interview right there: There's no point wasting time with a blatant liar."
Editing suggestion: Stick to the facts.
2. Listing irrelevant work experience "If you're applying to my company as a copywriter or graphic designer, I don't need to see your experience as a Blue Mountain ski instructor from 10â€¨ years ago," explains Caroline Piggott, the owner of Flourish, a Toronto business-support services firm.
Editing suggestion: Stay focused on the (desired) job at hand.
If you're looking for jobs in multiple industries, you should maintain a couple of different resumes.
Using the example above, you should maintain one resume for graphic design positions (highlighting any pertinent education, internship and work experience) and another resume for sports industry positions (this is where your ski instructor experience and any volunteer coaching become relevant).
If you encounter a job that merges both skill profiles -- for instance, a marketing gig at a ski destination -- create a hybrid résumé that covers both.
Page 1 of 3 -- Discover why it's important to keep your resume free of fancy fonts and designs on page 2
3. Unquantified self-praise "When someone has a professional summary section on their resume that begins, ‘a consummate professional...' they lose all credibility. Such individuals are just not taken seriously," says Bruce Hurwitz, the president of Hurwitz Strategic Staffing. "Candidates must present objective facts about their successes -- not platitudes."
Editing suggestion: Don't say you're a pro; show you're a pro.
Quantify your professional achievements. If you've improved client retention by 35 per cent over the two years you've held your current sales position, say so explicitly.
Be similarly concrete when listing volunteer work you've done in the company's name. If you chaired last year's United Way committee, note that it raised $10,000 in two weeks -- 25 per cent more than the previous year's take. Remember, these achievements have to be accurate.
4. Over-the-top design flourishes Resume files should be easy to open, easy to print and easy to understand. Use a common font, and don't get creative with borders, lest part of your résumé is cropped during printing.
Likewise with photos: Unless you're going for a gig as a model or actor, photos are irrelevant, overly ink consuming and possibly cringe inducing.
"I remember a résumé where the applicant was suggesting he was 'a real go-getter,' so he inserted a picture of himself in an action pose, which took up 30 per centâ€¨of the page," says Tom Armour, a human resource executive with Toronto-based staffing agency High Return Selection. "It was overwhelming," he adds. Editing suggestion: Keep things simple. Use the resume templates in your word processing program, for instance.
5. Overly creative job titles "Use common, searchable terms and titles. Social media and resume-tracking systems use search capability to screen hundreds of resumes. If you use â€¨expressions such as, 'I am a customer evangelist' they may not be picked up by the systems," explains Armour.
And even if a live person is filtering the resumes, they may be alienated by overly quaint turns of phrase. Editing suggestion: Use the industry job title most commonly associated with your position. Even if you want to stand out as an edgy, innovative type, save the evangelizing for the second-round interview. Page 2 of 3 -- Learn how the right email address can boost your appearance of professionalism on page 3
6. A "to whom it may concern" vibe "Job seekers should customize their resumes for each job they apply to. When you find a job you're excited to apply for, take a few minutes to carefully read over and edit your résumé before you send it in. Customize, customize, customize!" says Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of flexjobs.com, a North American job search site focused on telecommuting and flex-time positions.
And always double-check and proofread your resume to ensure you don't mistakenly present the résumé you customized for Company A to Company B. Editing suggestion: Save your CV documents with descriptive names so you can track each version -- for example, "YHayashi CL.ca resume" or "YHayashi lifeguard resume." 7. An unprofessional email address "Email addresses with words other than your name in them or that include numbers, demonstrate a distinct lack of professionalism," says Carreau, the Calgary-based HR executive.
The sad reality is, as much as you may love your email@example.com addy, it isn't going to score you many job interviews, whether your dream job is in information technology or at a mixed martial arts training gym. Editing suggestion: "Create an email account designated specifically for your job search. Use your name in your email address, and make sure to include your new email address in your resume," advises Carreau.
8. Including (certain) hobbies and personal interests Personal interests are a tough call. Some experts say keep them off, period.
Professional resume writer and editor Gerry Sandis of resumeservicesonline.com disagrees. He says that a discussion about your hobbies and interests can sometimes be a "great icebreaker at the beginning of an interview." Editing suggestion: If in doubt, leave it out. The top priority of your resume is to sell yourself as professional. If you feel compelled to include hobbies and interests on your resume, limit them to ones that enhance your professional image, not any that could be perceived as indicating you're a loner, overly aggressive, socially dysfunctional or lazy, says Sandis. 9. Spelling and grammatical errors These mistakes send a very unprofessional image. Other things to avoid include slang or text-speak, says Carreau. Never include "shortcuts like the ones used for SMS, like 'ur' for 'your' or 'you're,'" she says.
NAGI. (It's not a good idea.)
Editing suggestion: Spellcheck, spellcheck, spellcheck! And have a reliable friend proofread your resume for you, too. Page 3 of 3
Women are more prone to ACL tears and runner's knee, but these expert-approved moves can help reduce your risk.
You don't have to be a high-intensity athlete to suffer a knee injury. Swinging a golf club or turning too quickly on the stairs can cause the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) to stretch beyond its normal range, resulting in a tear. And that's just traumatic injury. Even in the pursuit of fitness, we may unintentionally damage the joint; patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), sometimes called runner's knee, is a common overuse injury. The risk is especially high for women: We're two to eight times more likely than men to damage our ACLs and as much as two times more likely to suffer from runner's knee.
Researchers believe that the reasons women are more prone to knee injuries are mostly structural. Women's bodies typically have wider hips, higher rates of knock-knees, less space for the ACL and weaker ligaments, plus there's a tendency to use thigh muscles more than hamstrings, explains Dr. David Robinson, primary-care sports medicine physician at the David Braley Sport Medicine & Rehabilitation Centre at McMaster University in Hamilton. These anatomical factors all stress the ACL, effectively stacking the joint deck against us. But there might be a hormonal element, too. Fluctuating sex hormones may affect how loose our ligaments are at different points in our cycles, and for some women, that may mean decreased knee stability. Read on for tips on how to reduce your risk for the three most common types of knee injury.
These injuries tend to happen when you stop or change direction suddenly, or land incorrectly, often during an intense sport. The ACL keeps your shinbone from sliding out in front of the thighbone, so when it stretches, comes loose or tears, you'll feel pain and have swelling and reduced range of motion. Depending on the severity, you may need surgery.
Reduce your risk: "Training can ensure the correct knee-over-feet-and-under-hip position when landing," says Dr. Robinson. So if you're a big fan of activities like soccer or Frisbee, make sure you don't skip your warm-up. We like 11+, an injury prevention program developed by medical experts working with FIFA.
PFPS (a.k.a. runner's knee)
Pain in the front of the knee—including the soft tissue—that makes climbing stairs or kneeling down uncomfortable could be PFPS. The cause is often over-exercising, although inactive women can get runner's knee, too. Other culprits include problems with hip-knee-ankle alignment or doing too many squats and other knee-bending activities. If it's severe enough, you'll need to reduce activity until the pain dissipates.
Reduce your risk: A patellar tracking sleeve fitted by a bracing specialist, or custom-fit orthotics—or both!—can help. "But if you do knee-strengthening exercises, you won't need a sleeve," says Dr. Robinson.
You may hear a pop or feel pain a few days after you tear your meniscus, which is the cartilage that acts as a shock absorber between your thighs and shins. Tears often happen when you're squatting or twisting your knees, such as when you're tackled during sports, swinging your club during golf or crouching in the garden. Aging can also weaken your meniscus; sometimes, getting out of a chair awkwardly can be all it takes. Small tears may heal with rest, but severe tears require surgery.
Reduce your risk: Dr. Robinson says that exercises like the ones in our routine (below), warming up before activities and wearing shoes with good traction to prevent slips can all help minimize the risk of injury.
Before you start! Be mindful of form. Make sure your bent knee is lined up directly over your second toe. "This helps protect the joint," says physiotherapist Monica Maly. And make sure you don't allow your knee to rotate inward or outward as you move.
Don't go in cold. "Warming up before exercise can help prevent knee injuries," says Maly. Warming up can be as simple as brisk walking or cycling for 20 minutes—but save gentle stretching for your cooldown.
Your knee-saver exercise routine
These yoga-inspired exercises from Monica Maly, physiotherapist and associate professor at McMaster University's School of Rehabilitation Sciences in Hamilton, target key muscle groups that help protect your knee joints and boost your strength, coordination, balance and flexibility. Aim to do the routine three times a week, one set per session.
Illustration by Kagan McLeod
Aim: Stronger gluteals and hamstrings and increased hip flexibility.
- Lie down on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart. Lay your palms flat on the floor.
- Raise your hips as high as you can, squeezing your gluteal muscles. Hold for 10 seconds.
- Repeat six times. Form check: Your knees should point straight to the ceiling before you begin raising your hips.
Illustration by Kagan McLeod
Aim: Increased hip flexibility and improved balance.
- Stand with feet together and shoulders back and relaxed.
- Raise your arms out to your sides, parallel to the floor and palms facing down. Step your feet about three feet apart.
- Rotate from the right hip joint to position your right foot at a 90-degree angle. Align your right heel with your left heel.
- Exhale and bend your right knee to a 90-degree angle. Hold for 10 seconds. - Repeat three times on each side. Form check: Don't bend your knee past your toes.
Illustration by Kagan McLeod
Aim: Stronger quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteals.
- Stand with feet together and shoulders back and relaxed.
- Bend your knees, pulling your shoulder blades together, and aim for a 75-degree angle at the knee joint and a 90-degree angle at the hip. Hold for 10 seconds.
- Repeat six times. Form check: Make sure your trunk is over your thighs. From the front, the hip, knee and ankle of each leg should form a straight line.
Illustration by Kagan McLeod
Aim: Stronger hip abductors, ankle muscles and dorsiflexors for improved balance.
- Stand with feet together and shoulders back and relaxed.
- Bring your palms together in front of your chest.
- Bend one knee and place the sole of that foot on the inner calf or inner thigh of the standing leg (but never on the knee). Hold for 10 seconds.
- Repeat three times on each side. Form check: Keep your pelvis level and facing forward; stare at an object straight ahead to help keep your balance.
Dainty and flavourful, everyone loves to indulge in tiny bites of traditional tea sandwiches. Though they appear finicky to make, these tea sandwiches are easy to assemble and entirely make-ahead.
Pinwheel Sandwiches Trim crusts from 5 slices white or whole wheat sandwich loaf, cut Pullman-style. (Ask bakery to cut sandwich loaf horizontally, or Pullman style.) Using rolling pin, flatten slices slightly. Spread with 1/3 cup (75 mL) butter, softened; spread with filling.
Place 1 asparagus spear (or 2 baby gherkins) along 1 short end of each. Starting at asparagus, roll up tightly without squeezing. Wrap each roll tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour. With serrated knife, trim ends; cut each roll into 6 slices.
Makes 30 pieces. Pinwheel Sandwich recipe: Curried Egg Salad Triangle Sandwiches Spread 16 thin slices whole wheat or white sandwich bread with 1/3 cup (75 mL) butter, softened; spread filling evenly over 8 of the slices. Top with remaining slices, pressing lightly. Place on rimmed baking sheet and cover with damp tea towel; cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. Trim off crusts. Cut each sandwich into 4 pieces.
Makes 32 pieces. Triangle Sandwich recipe: Ham Pickle Spread Square Sandwiches Make sandwiches as in Triangle Sandwiches above except use 8 thin slices white and 8 thin slices whole wheat sandwich bread. Cut each sandwich into quarters.
Makes 32 pieces.Square Sandwich recipe: Pimiento Cheese Spread Finger Sandwiches Make sandwiches as in Triangle Sandwiches above. Cut each sandwich lengthwise into 4 fingers.
Makes 32 pieces. Finger Sandwich recipe: Tuna Olive Salad
Choose the best-quality bread. Never serve end slices. Freezing bread before cutting and then spreading makes for easier handling.
Bread should be lightly buttered no matter what the filling. Butter should be at room temperature before spreading. Sandwiches will not become limp and soggy as readily if you spread butter right to edge of bread.
Cut crusts off bread with long, sharp knife after (not before) assembling sandwiches. This keeps everything neater.
Since tea sandwiches should be delicate, cut each sandwich into thirds or quarters or in half diagonally. Or use cookie cutters to cut into decorative shapes.
Shopping for pet food can be confusing. With so many options—wet, dry, organic, grain-free—how can you be sure what's best for your cat or dog? There's a lot of persuasive marketing of pet food, and that means pet owners can lose sight of what's most important when it comes to feeding their animal companions. "Having the right nutrient profile is most important," says Dr. Adronie Verbrugghe of the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph. That profile, according to the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, a U.S. research organization, includes 38 essential nutrients required for dogs and 40 for cats.
Each pet's dietary needs depends on many factors—including age, breed and medical conditions—and your vet can best advise on proper feeding. But assuming you have a healthy adult cat or dog, here are the five must-have pet-food ingredients.
Why it's important: Protein (and the essential amino acids it brings) is necessary to build, maintain and repair cells, tissues and organs.
What cats need: Look for nutrient-dense whole meat ingredients (meat "byproducts" are lower quality). Organ meat—heart, liver or kidney—is especially beneficial because it's a natural source of many essential vitamins and minerals, including the must-have amino acid taurine (also added to commercial pet food to meet required levels).
What dogs need: Roughly 15 to 30 percent of your dog's diet should be protein, ideally from whole meat, such as chicken, lamb or turkey, instead of byproducts. Pure "meat meal" is also fine; it's a concentrated protein consisting of fat-free, nutrient-dense powdered meat.
Why it's important: Fat helps your pet absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K and delivers energy along with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which keep your pet's skin and coat healthy.
What cats need: Essential fatty acids, including linoleic and arachidonic acids, are vital to your cat's overall health and best absorbed from meat-based sources, such as chicken fat.
What dogs need: Fat is your dog's top source of energy, but it shouldn't make up more than about 10 to 15 percent of its diet since too much can lead to obesity. In dog food, fats typically come from pork, poultry or vegetable oils.
Why it's important: Water is vital for both species and usually accounts for 60 to 70 percent of your adult pet's weight. It regulates body temperature, transports oxygen and nutrients throughout the body, aids digestion and flushes the urinary tract. What cats need: Cats generally have low thirst drives and can get what they need through wet food, which is typically between 68 to 78 percent water (compared with an average of 10 percent moisture in kibble). Always have a bowl of fresh water available, as well.
What dogs need: Dog kibble is about five to 10 percent water, while wet food has much more. Dogs will readily drink water, so getting it through food isn't as big a concern. A healthy adult dog needs to consume roughly 30 millilitres of water for every 4 1/2 kilograms (that's about an ounce of water for every 10 pounds) in body weight daily, so keep a bowl of fresh water on the go for your pooch. Vitamins and Minerals
Why they're important: Vitamins and minerals assist with chemical reactions in the body, provide nutrients and help build strong muscles and bones. Pet food that's labelled "complete and balanced" meets the Association of American Feed Control Officials nutritional requirements, so unless your vet says so, there's no need for further supplements. That said, if you're feeding your pet a raw-food or homemade diet, check with your vet or a pet nutritionist to determine if it contains all the essential vitamins and minerals, and supplement accordingly, if needed.
What cats need: Fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, as well as B vitamins niacin and thiamine. Minerals, especially calcium and phosphorus, need to be consumed in specific proportions, which "balanced/complete" food provides correctly.
What dogs need: Vitamins A, D, E and K, along with water-soluble vitamin C and B-complex vitamins. Again, supplements aren't necessary; in fact, too much of certain vitamins or minerals can cause damage. For example, excess vitamin A can damage a dog's blood vessels.
Regardless of which food you buy, its overall nutritional makeup is what's key. Look for the words "complete" or "balanced" on the label and talk to your vet if you have questions. "With good nutrition, you can prevent a lot of diseases later in life," says Dr. Verbrugghe. And that means a longer, healthier life for your furry friend.
Here are some scary truths: 70 percent of new Alzheimer's patients in Canada will be women, and we're diagnosed with depression and dementia at twice the rate of men. But new research says there are three simple lifestyle changes we can make right now to keep our brains healthy as we age.
You brush your teeth to prevent tooth decay and check your blood pressure to monitor for signs of heart problems. But are you doing anything to keep your brain in tip-top shape? Because you should be. Brain health, which experts define as a combination of cognitive (memory, attention, thinking) and mental (emotional well-being) fitness, is a major, albeit under-the- radar, health issue for Canadian women.
It's major because as we age, so do our brains. Vascular changes can decrease blood flow; we can lose volume in key areas, including the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex, the regions responsible for learning and memory. Myelin, a fatty material that makes up the protective coating around nerve fibres, starts to deteriorate, causing the brain to slow down. And nerve cells can develop plaques and tangles— structures caused by the buildup of proteins called beta-amyloids that can disrupt the brain's normal function. In some people, these and other signs of normal aging can cause mental health problems, strokes and brain disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer's, and increase the risk of diseases such as multiple sclerosis.
Brain health is an under-the-radar issue because, though women are more likely to experience cognitive decline (thanks to dementia or Alzheimer's) and to suffer from depression, most of the research on these conditions still focuses on men.
Thankfully, studies are showing that straightforward lifestyle changes—exercising regularly and not smoking are at the top of the list—help shore up what researchers call "cognitive reserve," a buffer that "delays the changes or makes your body better equipped to handle those changes," says Lauren Drogos, a brain researcher at the University of Calgary.
In fact, Drogos says there's evidence to show that, in some people, even serious symptoms do not necessarily develop into cognitive impairment. She points to the Nun Study, a famous long-running research project on aging and Alzheimer's that has been tracking 678 nuns from convents across the United States since the mid-1980s. One of the nuns, Sister Mary, died at the age of 101 showing no outward signs of cognitive decline—but when researchers examined her brain, they were shocked to find she had "abundant neurofibrillary tangles and senile plaques, the classic lesions of Alzheimer's disease." Scientists don't know exactly why some people can have severe symptoms, such as plaques and tangles, without experiencing cognitive decline, but, happily, cases like Sister Mary do show that dementia isn't an inevitable part of aging.
And since women are more likely than men to be diagnosed with many of these problems, the more we consider brain health when making our day-to-day lifestyle decisions, the better. (Bonus: These changes also benefit your heart and help prevent other diseases, including Type 2 diabetes and cancer.) So here's what you can do to take care of your brain.
This is your brain on exercise If you had to pick just one lifestyle change to make in the name of brain health, experts agree exercise tops the list—especially for women.
We consider neuroplasticity, the brain's capacity to form new neural connections, an exciting part of a child's development, but we now know our brains can continue to grow, repair and improve as adults, too. Physical activity is a well-researched trigger. Not only can working out bolster our day-to-day functioning and alertness but it also appears to help us repair brain damage. Plus, it slows down aging and the onset of age-related brain diseases.
Working up a sweat and pumping up your heart rate can lead to a healthier vascular system in the brain, which decreases blood pressure and oxidative stress (when your body's antioxidants can't fight off free radicals), and increases antioxidant activity, according to Marc Poulin, an Alzheimer's researcher and professor of physiology at the University of Calgary. Vigorous exercise also floods the bloodstream with a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which readies the body for repair and heightens the brain's ability to learn and form new memories. Plus, hitting the gym helps the brain repair myelin; a lack of the nerve fibre–protecting substance is a factor in developing multiple sclerosis.
Exercising can also restore crucial brain volume. Research has shown that the hippocampus— home to memory, learning and emotion—starts shrinking after age 55 by about one to two percent a year, but just one year of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise done three days a week can increase its size by two percent.
And while most of the research is about the benefits of getting in your cardio, Dr. Teresa Liu-Ambrose, an associate professor and Canada research chair at The University of British Columbia and the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute, says strength training is also effective, as it can enhance brain performance and function by 11 to 17 percent. "Women live longer [than men], and age itself is the greatest risk factor for dementia," she says. "But the good news is when we look at the benefit of aerobic exercise on cognition in older adults, women seem to benefit more."
The takeaway: You can reap the rewards from even a 15-minute walk. Of course, the longer you exercise, the better, especially if you get your sweat on and your heart rate up. If you want to tick a few other brain health tips off your list, consider joining a team sport. It blends physical, social and cognitive skills, and "can also add pleasure and meaning to our lives," says Dr. Nasreen Khatri, a registered clinical psychologist, gerontologist and neuroscientist at the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences in Toronto.
If you have an office job and find you're sedentary most of the day, take a few minutes every hour or so to get up and move around. Research also suggests switching to a standup desk may improve your brain function.
Did you know? Taking care of a loved one—most often a spouse in your later years—can be a risk factor for developing depression and, eventually, dementia . But research out of the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences in Toronto found, for the first time, that cognitive behavioural therapy, a form of talk therapy, can improve both mood and cognition.
This is your brain on sleep After a good night's sleep, you feel alert and ready to tackle the day. But that's not just because your brain has been resting. It has also been busy filing away memories and taking out the trash, so to speak, thanks to the glymphatic system, which washes the brain of waste materials. For example, a protein called betaamyloid, which is known to play a role in the development of Alzheimer's, acts as a neurotoxin when it builds up, killing neural cells in the brain. But a good sleep removes excess beta-amyloid and other waste materials, says Dr. Liu-Ambrose.
Because one of the common symptoms of Alzheimer's is disrupted sleep, it's unclear whether a lack of shut-eye should be considered part of the progression of the disease or a risk factor on its own, due to the buildup of beta-amyloids.
Nevertheless, poor sleep hastens your brain's aging process—much like sitting in the sun sans SPF speeds up your skin's aging process. And disturbed sleeping has been linked to all aspects of brain health, including an increased risk of depression and a decline in cognitive functions such as memory and reasoning. In one U.K. study out of University College London Medical School, middle-aged women who reported a drop in the average number of hours they slept had lower scores on cognitive tests involving reasoning and vocabulary.
What's more, our central clocks—a.k.a. our circadian rhythms—can drift from the patterns of our childhood, making it hard to get that much-needed rest. "As we age, our central clock is less sensitive to stimuli like light, food and physical activity," says Dr. Liu-Ambrose; this change makes it harder to fall, and stay, asleep. We can also become more vulnerable to stress and anxiety, which further disrupt those rhythms.
One way to combat these fluctuations is to try what seasoned travellers do for jet-lag recovery: Get exposure to real daylight and eat your meals on time to nudge your brain into a routine. And don't use bright screens at night, especially before bed, because they mimic sunlight and tell our circadian system that it's day, not night—and, therefore, not time to sleep. Those who need more help might consider light therapies that have been developed to treat seasonal affective disorder, says Dr. Liu-Ambrose.
The takeaway: Many researchers consider six to eight hours of sleep a night to be the standard sweet spot, though this can vary by individual. If you're routinely getting less than that and waking often in the night, not feeling refreshed in the morning and experiencing bouts of sleepiness during the day, talk to your doctor about sleep strategies—especially if you're experiencing anxiety or depression. In the short term, napping can reverse some of the effects of poor sleep, including memory loss and increased stress. And you only need a 30-minute catnap to feel the results.
This is your brain on a healthy diet There's no perfect "brain food," but eating a nutritious diet (lots of veggies and fruit, lean meat, fish and healthy fats) is the smartest way to maintain long-term brain function and memory, and to slow the development of brain diseases.
Getting enough of specific nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids is important but not the holy grail. University of Pittsburgh researchers recently found that people who eat broiled or baked fish at least once a week have larger brain volumes in the areas used for memory and cognition, despite varying levels of omega-3 in the fish they ate. Senior researcher James Becker concluded that he and his colleagues were "tapping into a more general set of lifestyle factors that were affecting brain health, of which diet is just one part."
In a 2015 study from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, researchers looked at the broad set of eating habits of more than 900 people over 4 1/2 years and found that those who adhered to a diet high in fish, vegetables, nuts and berries, and low in fat and sugar, slowed down their brains' aging by about 7 1/2 years when compared to those with less-healthy diets. The healthy eaters cut their risk of Alzheimer's by up to 53 percent. And even when those people only adhered to the diet part time, they saw some benefits— an effect that has not been found in other diets, says Drogos.
The researchers dubbed the most promising cluster of these eating habits the MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet, which blends the longevity-boosting Mediterranean diet and the heart-healthy low-fat DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet that doctors recommend to patients at risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. More studies need to be done on why it works, but in the meantime, there's no downside to eating healthier and ditching the junk.
The takeaway: Add more veggies to your diet. Research shows that older adults who report eating more of this food group perform better in mentally stimulating activities than those who don't.
Did you know? "Menopause brain" is a real thing. As with "pregnancy brain," its more famous counterpart, women approaching menopause really do experience memory problems and brain fog. Researchers think a drop in estrogen levels might be the cause.
Can you train your brain? Does firing up a brain-training app actually help improve your memory and ward off dementia? Sorry to disappoint, but right now, evidence for the benefits of computer-based brain games is weak, says Dr. Teresa Liu-Ambrose, an associate professor and Canada research chair at The University of British Columbia and the Vancouver Coastal HealthResearch Institute. Brain games appear to help you learn to play them better, but research doesn't show that those tasks transfer to other aspects of brain performance. The same goes for crossword puzzles and sudoku, which help your vocabulary and math skills, but nothing more.
How to maintain your mental edge at any age
In your 30s: This is the time to make sure you establish healthy habits—such as getting plenty of exercise and sleep, and eating a good diet—that will affect your brain health throughout your adult years. "When it comes to maintaining brain health, the best time to start is yesterday," says Dr. Nasreen Khatri, a registered clinical psychologist, gerontologist and neuroscientist at the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences in Toronto. If you feel you need a boost at work, consider old-fashioned writing instead of typing on your computer. A study in the journal Psychological Science found that university students who made handwritten notes were better equipped to recall conceptual ideas from their professors' lectures than those who had typed notes on their laptops.
In your 40s and 50s: People in this age group are part of the "sandwich generation," and often face caring for their aging parents on top of dealing with their other work, financial and parenting obligations. So, unsurprisingly, they're super stressed—and this can affect both mental health and day-to-day brain function. Dr. Khatri says it's essential to prioritize and edit out activities and commitments that increase stress without adding value to your productivity or happiness. That's because "maintaining mental health in early and mid life is key to safeguarding cognitive health later on," she says. "Untreated depression in midlife doubles your risk of developing dementia in later life."
In your 60s and beyond: In your senior years, socializing with friends and family, and picking up activities that allow you to connect, such as volunteering, are key to maintaining brain health. And sorry, keeping up with folks on Facebook isn't enough. "Ask yourself: Is social media rounding out my real-life social experiences?" suggests Dr. Khatri. What you need is face-to-face interaction.