Vermont topped the list; Louisiana came in dead last.
Well-known supplement company, Life Extension, is behind a new study centered around comparing brain health across all 50 U.S. states. The company, leaning on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to make their sweeping conclusions and share their findings, found that some areas of the U.S. are clearly lagging behind others when it comes to minding one’s mind.
Cognitive health encompasses various neurological processes such as memory, attention, language, and executive function, and there are a number of things that can influence each of these processes. Some of the criteria that was taken into consideration in comparing cognitive health across states was the amount of literature being read, fruits and vegetables being eaten, and quality of sleep. For example, in Texas (which landed in the bottom 10), only 67.6% of residents reported that they eat fruits and vegetables. The number of residents who exercise is just shy of 74%. And perhaps most shocking is that only 35.5% of residents read literature and only 35.1% get sufficient sleep. These factors have been analyzed by the CDC to be proven determinants of brain health, all of which are critical in maintaining good cognition.
While Texas was near the bottom tier of this study, it still managed to beat out several states including Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, and West Virginia. At the very bottom was Louisiana where few adults read recreationally (29.5%), and few babies are still breastfed at 12 months (24.1%), another factor included. The state also has a low average rate of fruit and vegetable consumption (62.8%).
On the opposite end of the spectrum was Vermont, alongside much of New England, earning the top spot for brain health in the United States. Vermont has better overall structure than many areas of the U.S. when it comes to the aforementioned risk factors and the highest literacy rate in children under 5 years old. Overall, the authors reported 59.6% of adults read literature and 64.2% of young children are read to every day and the breastfeeding rate after one year of age is 50.6%.
It’s no secret that it’s easier to be healthier in some states than others even if one takes a proactive path to warding off cognitive decline. Factors like temperate climates, the availability of outdoor activities and greenspaces, community resources, and others can impact one’s ability to take charge of their own brain health. However, the overall purpose of the study was to encourage individuals to seek out brain boosting activities beyond their day to day to change combat geographical limitations.
Despite weather, pollution and other hard-to-control factors, there are things that everyone can do to improve their circumstances and chances of maintaining strong cognition function. Life Extension noted that regular exercise, sleep, mindfulness exercises and preparing before undergoing major life changes such as having children can be key ways to quickly improve one’s brain health. Ensuring regularly scheduled health checkups with medical professionals are maintained and eating a well-balanced diet can also go a long way, as can seeking mental health help when necessary.