Bridal showers are a wonderful opportunity to bring together everyone who is involved in a wedding and to create a memorable prelude to the actual event. However, planning a bridal shower for a friend or family member can sometimes be a nerve-wracking affair.
To find out how to avoid any bridal shower-related anxiety, we turned to Robyn Green, principal at Kai Event Management, a Vancouver-based boutique company that provides complete planning, consulting and supervision services for weddings and corporate events. She shares some helpful tips on how to plan an unforgettable bridal shower.
1. Always keep the bride in mind Does the bride-to-be love games and other bridal shower traditions, or is she looking for a less structured, more laid-back event? Green says that it's important to keep these things in mind when planning a bridal shower. After that, you can take care of the smaller details.
"Once the feeling of the shower has been decided upon, the organizer may wish to consult with the bride to find out what the wedding colours will be and if there are any fun little details that can be incorporated into the shower to correspond with the wedding," says Green.
2. What to serve at a bridal shower When it comes to providing food and drink options, keep in mind the time of day of the event and the number of guests. Green notes that, in her experience, setting up multiple food stations throughout the shower venue provides a nice flow to the event and allows guests to easily mix and mingle.
"Food can be set up on various platters so everyone can help themselves. If the shower takes place over lunch or dinner, make sure enough food is available to make up for a meal," she advises. It's also important to ensure there is enough seating for the amount of guests attending the shower.
If you're not sure what beverages to serve, keep things simple. "It is always nice to have both chilled sparkling wine and wine on hand for guests to sip," says Green. "But always keep in mind that many guests will have driven to the shower, so serving a couple of unique punches or virgin cocktails is always appreciated."
Page 1 of 2 -- Discover three more great ways to plan the perfect bridal shower on page 2 3. Invitation dos and don'ts Review the guest list for the shower with the bride to avoid inviting anyone who is not invited to the wedding, which Green considers an etiquette faux pas. She also advises leaving the registry information off of the invitation.
"Do not incorporate the registry information on the shower invitations themselves," she advises. "If you would like to let guests know where the couple is registered, a separate card can be placed within the envelope or, alternatively, guests can contact the host directly."
Invitations should be sent out to the shower guests no less than one month before the shower will take place. This will allow guests ample time to plan accordingly.
4. Enjoy a fun bridal shower game Although some brides still appreciate traditional shower games, you can rest easy knowing they are not a must. Some brides will even prefer to avoid them altogether, says Green.
However, if you are looking for a crowd-pleasing game, she suggests playing How Well Do You Know the Bride? To play this game, contact the groom several weeks before the shower and give him a list of fun, unique and somewhat personal questions about the bride that he must answer truthfully. These questions can be anything from "What was your fiancee wearing on your first date?" to "What is her worst habit?" The bride must then try to figure out how her groom would have answered these questions. Guests appreciate this game as it's a fun way to get to know the couple better.
5. Get creative and have fun For the bride who wants to keep her shower modern and chic, Green suggests infusing the decor with fashionable trends such as incorporating bright colours into the table settings and floral bouquets.
Looking to inject a bit of glamour into the event? "Ask a great DJ to recommend an upbeat playlist or have the guests all dress up in their best cocktail dresses, hire a photographer and incorporate a red carpet!" suggests Green. When it comes to being creative, the sky is the limit. "The modern-day shower can really bend the rules of tradition, so have fun with it," she says.
If you've been entrusted with the task of planning a bridal shower, don't panic. By keeping the bride's personality in mind, focusing on fun and abiding by proper etiquette, you can put together a memorable pre-wedding event for the bride-to-be.
We spoke to Rime Arodaky, a Paris-based wedding dress designer, and Danielle Gulic and Yvonne Reidy, co-owners of Loversland a bridal shop in Toronto, to find out the biggest and best wedding dress trends for 2017.
Following wedding dress trends is tricky, especially if you're a bride. On one hand, most brides-to-be want a look that they can look back on without regret (something most women who got married in the 1980s can't do). But on the other hand, embracing the time and place you got hitched is a great way to mark the moment—and incorporating the trends of the day is the easiest way to do this. The good news? For 2017 the bridal dress trends that are making the biggest waves are also the prettiest—which means you can rest easy about that dress regret.
We spoke to Danielle Gulic and Yvonne Reidy, co-owners of bridal boutique Loversland in Toronto, and wedding dress designer Rime Arodaky for all the latest you need to know about the top 10 2017 wedding dress trends.
Lace is still going very strong for 2017. Think illusion necklines, sheer lace sleeves, lace overlays or just all-lace dresses. When it comes to soft romanticism, lace is still your best bet.
Image by: Oscar de la Renta
2. Jumpsuits and suits
"When we first opened two years ago, we were really stoked about jumpsuits and pants," says Danielle Gulic, "but only now are we at the point where women are actually embracing it." It may seem like a bold fashion choice, but wearing a sleek or romantic suit to your nuptials is a great look. Remember Bianca Jagger's wedding look? Trust us, it will stand the test of time.
3. Understated glamour
This is more of a feeling than a hard and fast trend, but Yvonne and Danielle have noticed a definite uptick in women looking for more glamorous and Hollywood-inspired elegance. Could you wear it on a red carpet? If yes, then it's probably glamorous.
"I think women are a bit more open and amped for sparkle," says Danielle. This doesn't mean over-the-top sequins necessarily (although go there if you're feeling it) but just adding a little shine to an otherwise simple silhouette can take a dress from simple to stunning.
5. Clean lines
Rime Arodaky calls this the "city-chic" look. Think clean lines, simple silhouettes and an overall polish to your bridal look. While you could wear a gown like this to a big 500-person wedding, it would also be a great look for a city hall bride.
Structure doesn't necessarily mean hard edges—but Rime has definitely noticed that brides are paying more attention to the detail and shape of the dress and how it fits their body. It's all about finding that middle ground of the perfect fit. "Brides are looking for a bit of structure," she says. "Nothing too flowy or too soft—without being too puffy or too heavy, the structure is becoming very important."
Off-the-shoulder silhouettes are still big—but the trend to keep at eye out for is single-shoulder dresses. "It's not quite here yet," says Danielle, "but I think we'll be seeing a lot more one-shouldered gowns soon." From our research, there were only a few brands embracing the one-shoulder—and they were all more experimental. File this under, big in 2018.
Colours (other than the occasional pale pink or muted yellow) haven't hit the mainstream yet—and Rime, Danielle and Yvonne are okay with that. But what they are seeing is more intricate embroidery, often in pastel colours. The takeaway? Go for subtle colours and interesting touches instead of full on colour.
Elizabeth Fillmore-FelicityImage by:Loversland
9. Metallic accents
"I really love metallic details," says Rime. "I have little gold dots in the new collection and I love hints of rose gold too." Metallics are a no-brainer for your big day. And while most brides bring the trend into their look with accessories or even nail polish, this year feel free to embrace a dress with a bit more pizzazz in the form of metal accents.
Rue De SeineImage by:Loversland
10. Old school accessories
Okay, so this isn't a dress trend, but it is one of our favourites on the list. Old school accessories—like traditional veils and embellished hair combs—are making a comeback. When it comes to trying these trends the Loversland ladies implore you to just try it on. "A lot of girls come in and they don't want a veil," says Yvonne, "but then as soon as they try it on, they love it." So ditch the flower crown for a veil or a glamorous comb in your hair.
The rich, crisp and flaky crust. The syrupy-sweet filling.
Eating your first butter tart is an experience like none other.
“The reason I like butter tarts is that [they] fly in the face of all political correctness,” says
Marion Kane, food sleuth and former food editor for the Toronto Star.
“It's fattening, it's high in sugar, it's caloric–but it's delicious and I have yet to meet somebody that doesn’t like butter tarts. You’d have to be crazy!”
Canadians are quick to agree that the sticky tarts are by far one of the most iconic Canuck foods out there. But if there’s one topic that gets us otherwise polite Canadians up in arms, it’s the debate over what makes the perfect butter tart.
Gooey or firm? Should it include raisins? What about nuts? And should you use butter or lard in the dough?
To get to the bottom of this patriotic parley, we polled three Canadian butter tart enthusiasts to get their take on what makes the perfect butter tart.
“I believe the pastry needs to be made with lard–at least some of it,” says Marion Kane.
“Crunchy-crispy at the edges, even semi-burnt,” says Canadian artist and butter tart enthusiast
Charles Pachter. His secret to the best crust: lard cut with a bit of cider vinegar.
Barbara Rowlandson, festival director for
Ontario's Best Butter Tart Festival in Midland, Ont., evaluates more than 3,000 tarts for inclusion in the "Best Butter Tart in Ontario" contest. She's less picky when it comes to her crust.
“You can have sort of a traditional flaky pie pastry, which we are all sort of used to, or you can do a shortbread pastry, which is also acceptable. It’s more like a shortbread cookie and that's a really nice way to have your butter tart.” However, one unique way she enjoys tarts is with a phyllo pastry.
For Rowlandson, the most crucial part of a butter tart is the filling–it has to tread that fine line between being overly runny and being firm and overset.
“I like them to be in what I call the ‘goo zone,’ where they just sort of gently goo out,” she says.
The so-called "goo zone" was a common theme among our pollees.
“It's crucial that the filling be right. In my mind, it should be soft and gooey but not liquidy,” says Kane.
Pachter agrees: “Chewy towards the middle, gooey-runny in the middle."
"Raisins, of course,” says Pachter.
Rowlandson admits to being anti-raisins in her butter tarts, she won’t object to the addition of a few walnuts in the filling.
Why we care so much about butter tarts
“Canadians, and Ontarians especially, do not have middling feelings about butter tarts,” says Rowlandson.
Rowlandson used to sell butter tarts in her store in downtown Midland, where customers would regularly argue over the iconic Canadian pastry.
“Complete strangers would stand there in my store for an hour having discourse on what makes a correct butter tart, and I even had to break up a couple of fights, including one that I swear was going to turn into a fistfight between a couple of ladies over the last butter tart.”
A true Canadian invention, the earliest published butter tart recipe
comes from Mrs. Malcolm MacLeod of Simcoe County, Ont., and can be found in the Royal Victoria Hospital Women’s Auxiliary cookbook, published in Barrie, Ont. in 1900.
“We have something that's dear to us and our invention and we should cherish it and treasure it,” says Kane. “Food is a vehicle for human connection and people feel good when they have a food memory that relates to being together with family, and I think butter tarts were made on an ongoing basis as the standard pastry in many homes.”
This year’s Ontario's Best Butter Tart Festival takes place on June 11 in Midland, Ont. For more information, visit
buttertartfestival.ca or call 705-526-4275.
Craving butter tarts? Here are a few of our favourite butter tart recipes!
We polled family doctors from across the country, and they laid down the law on eight things they wish we'd do—or stop doing.
According to our panel of general practitioners, Canadians aren't always doing what they should to make the most of doctor visits—and skipping out on these crucial tactics could lead to a delay in diagnosing serious conditions. Here's what our experts say you should add to your patient checklist.
1. Stop feeling shy
Many of us hesitate to talk to our physicians about sensitive issues (think substance abuse or sexual health—or even gender identity). But honesty and openness are important, both for fostering a good doctor-patient relationship and for ensuring that you get the best care, says Dr. Laura Pripstein, medical director of the Sherbourne Health Centre in Toronto and a staff physician on the family health team. That's why it's OK to try out a doc before committing. Dr. Pripstein recommends booking an initial visit to see if your potential doctor is a good fit. "You want to see if this person seems like someone you can talk to, someone you feel comfortable with," she says. And if you don't think your doctor understands or respects your concerns, don't be afraid to find someone new. "If you feel you can't ask questions that might be embarrassing, you don't have the right provider," says Dr. Pripstein.
2. Don't come to your appointments unprepared
Get the most out of your time—and your doc's—by arriving at your appointment with a clear plan for what you want to discuss, says Dr. David Ross, an associate professor of family medicine at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. "It's good to have patients think about their problems from when the issue began, then look at it chronologically to the present," says Dr. Ross. Making a prioritized point-form list in advance helps ensure that you don't forget anything or mix up the order of events, he says. Then, work with your doctor to address the most serious issues first.
3. Choose your family doc over the walk-in clinic whenever you can
Yes, a clinic is convenient, but what we gain in easy access, we lose in familiarity. "I think it's really valuable if people can connect with a family physician who they'll be able to see long term, rather than just looking for the quickest way to access care," says Dr. Maurianne Reade, a physician with the Manitoulin Central Family Health Team in Mindemoya and M'Chigeeng First Nation, Ont. A family doctor will know your medical history and will keep it in mind when suggesting treatment—so, for example, if you've recently taken several courses of antibiotics for a UTI, your physician will likely look for a different course of action if you come in with another infection. According to the most recent statistics, about 4.5 million Canadians don't have a regular family doctor. If that's you, contact your provincial College of Physicians and Surgeons, or check to see if your region has an online registry (Ontario has Health Care Connect, while Quebec launched a web-based family doctor finder last year). "It's important to know that we doctors are privileged to share in your stories and to help you through difficult times," says Dr. Reade.
4. Share what's happening in your life
There's a reason your doctor wants to know where you're working, if you're dating and how the kids are—and it's not just because she likes you. (Though she does, we're sure.) Physicians need a picture of their patients' lives beyond their specific health symptoms and conditions, especially when they're first getting to know you, says Dr. Stephen Wetmore, the family medicine chair at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at Western University in London, Ont. "Doctors need to know these things to understand how your lifestyle and habits may be influencing your health," he says. So when you're talking about your exercise habits, your health history and whether you smoke, drink or use drugs, mention your employment status, family obligations and intimate relationships, too, says Dr. Wetmore.
5. Be a better googler
Doctors know you do it (hello, late-night web searches), but they would prefer you to ask about good sources of information, rather than going rogue online. They also want you to be honest about your fears if you've read something particularly upsetting. Physicians can't address your concerns or point you in the right direction if they don't know what your fingertips have been up to. "The thing we want our patients to do is ask us for the most reliable Canadian websites to go to as resources," says Dr. Heather Waters, an assistant professor of family medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton.
6. Don't think your symptoms are "no big deal"
If you've noticed you are having more headaches than usual or are sleeping more or are eating less, you might not think to tell your doctor—but you should. There's no set of rules for determining which symptoms are worthy of investigation or discussion, says Dr. Wetmore, but make a note to mention anything that is new or has changed since your last appointment. "You should bring up things like sudden weight loss or fatigue that seems excessive," he says. "It could be a sign of a larger problem, or the cause of a developing problem." Evenif it doesn't end up being serious, seeing your doctor will help ease any anxiety you might be feeling, and that's worth the visit, too.
7. Talk about what you're taking
Tell your physician about any herbal medications and alternative treatments you take, says Dr. Mel Borins, a University of Toronto associate professor and author of A Doctor's Guide to Alternative Medicine: What Works, What Doesn't, and Why. It's important for patients to share what's working for them and for doctors to be open-minded about therapies outside their own practice or traditions, he says. This is also a concern when it comes to conventional meds, especially if you're pregnant; there are only 23 medications specifically approved for use during pregnancy— yes, out of every available drug—which can leave women feeling anxious about taking prescription or over-the-counter drugs when they're expecting, says Dr. Robyn MacQuarrie, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Bridgewater, N.S. But don't stop taking your meds as soon as your pregnancy test comes back positive. "It's really important to talk to your doctor instead of stopping cold turkey," says Dr. MacQuarrie. Physicians can help you determine the risks and benefits of using different drugs, and they can let you know when the effects of not taking a medication while pregnant may be worse than taking it— which is the case with some antidepressants.
8. Avoid diagnosing yourself
You know doctors don't like it when you come in prepared with a diagnosis you've made thanks to the aforementioned Dr. Google. But do you know why? It's not because they think you're encroaching on their territory! Rather, they worry that a serious medical problem might get missed or you'll cause yourself unnecessary anxiety over something not serious. That's because not everyone has the most common symptoms of a particular condition. Plus, men, women and different ethnicities can have varying symptoms for the same problem. For instance, Dr. Reade's community has a large proportion of people with diabetes, which can affect the warning signs of cardiac disease, a major killer in Canada. Instead of the usual pain or pressure on the left side of the chest or arm, men and women with diabetes may instead have spells of profuse sweating with weakness. And, of course, women who don't have diabetes can have differing symptoms, too; sometimes, a heart attack can feel like acid reflux or come with sudden nausea, vomiting and lightheadedness. So always tell your physician if your symptoms are surprising or strange—like a headache that feels different than usual, for example. And if you're worried about a specific diagnosis, be sure to bring that up, too.
While every Canadian faces his or her own unique set of health hurdles, there are a number of ailments that have become pervasive in Canada. Though medicine has advanced over the years, our modern lifestyles have introduced a new set of health challenges. Here are some of the top health problems that Canadians face today.
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.