Now more than ever, society is paying greater attention to mental health, which is truly a wonderful thing. Not so wonderful, however, is a new study from Life Extension. Using data from the CDC, Life Extension looked at the brain health of every state in America.

That data doesn't prove promising for Iowans. Iowa is in the bottom 15 states when it comes to overall quality of brain health. You might be shocked at the percentages of adults in the state who read and exercise regularly.

Photo Credit: Life Extension
Photo Credit: Life Extension

Key Findings:

Before we address Iowa specifically, here are some key findings from the CDC/Life Extension's study of brain health across the United States.

  • New England dominates the top 10: Vermont ranked first in good brain health habits, with New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine all landing among the top 10. Vermont, for example, has some of the highest rates of reading for pleasure (59.6%) and reading to children (64.2% of young kids are read to every day).
  • Louisiana is the worst state: Few adults read recreationally (29.5%), and few babies are still breastfed at 12 months (24.1%). The state famous for Fat Tuesday and beignets also has a low average rate of fruit and vegetable consumption (62.8%).
  • Notable outliers: We saw a number of states that truly were a mixed bag. In No. 32 Hawaii, for example, 47.3% of babies are breastfed at 12 months, much higher than the national median of 37%. And in No. 45 Nevada, 83% of adults say they've worked out in the past month, one of the highest rates of regular physical activity in the U.S. - stats per Life Extension
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Iowa's Statistics Regarding Brain Health:

When addressing brain health, several lifestyle habits that promote quality mental health were analyzed, including:

  • Exercise
  • Diet
  • Sleep
  • Meditation
  • Reading literature
  • Reading to children
  • Breastfeeding

While the full statistical breakdown for Iowa isn't available, Life Extension found that merely 36.8% of Iowa residents read literature. Only 67.15% eat fruits and vegetables daily (higher than I would've thought, frankly). 36.6% of babies in the state are breastfed, but a whopping 81.6% of adults exercise daily.

Photo Credit: Bunyos, Getty Images
Photo Credit: Bunyos, Getty Images

The Best Ways to Optimize Brain Health:

If you find your mental clarity and sharpness deteriorating, consider these tips from the CDC and Life Extension in order to improve them:

  • Manage your stress: According to the NIH, everyday stress can impact your cognitive well-being, so try to set aside time for self-care to help yourself relax, whether that means working out, listening to music or spending time with loved ones.
  • Invest time in learning new things: It's critical to keep your brain sharp, and hobbies like reading or listening to music can help, Harvard Medical School has reported. You can also try nootropic, a nutrient that encourages healthy neuro-processing speeds, learning and memory.
  • Feed your brain: The Mediterranean diet has been lauded by the NIH's National Institute on Aging for both its brain and heart health benefits. Staples of this brain-healthy approach to eating include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and healthy fats from fish, olive oil, avocado and nuts.
  • Bolster your nutrition: In addition to a well-balanced diet rich in nutrients, you can try vitamins and minerals that support cognitive function and fill in any gaps. For example, if you're not a fan of fatty fish like salmon, omega-3 supplements can ensure you're getting enough of a nutrient that researchers at the University of Texas San Antonio have linked to brain function. - per Life Extension

See the full results of the study on Life Extension's website.

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