Brainy ideas for summer fun

Ah, those lazy, hazy days of summer. Think vacations. Think school breaks. It seems like a good time for the entire family to just chill and not do any heavy mental lifting.

As tempting as that may sound, however, maintaining good brain health is a year-round activity. Here are a few fun and easy ways to help keep everyone's brain healthy this summer:

Get physical. Head outside with the kids for some hiking or biking--aerobic exercise gets the heart pumping. And that helps keep the brain fed with a healthy supply of blood and oxygen. It can even spur production of new brain cells, according to the Alzheimer's Association. One large study linked fitness in midlife with a reduced risk for dementia in older age.

Just make sure all bike riders wear a helmet--it helps protect the brain from trauma in case of an accident or fall.

Be a brainiac. Read a book while lounging at the beach. Break out word games for family game night. Forcing yourself to think can add new brain cells and solidify their connections.

Serve some food for thought. Summer is the perfect time to head to your local farmers market for foods high in brain-friendly antioxidants. Look for:

  • Dark-colored vegetables, like kale, spinach, broccoli and beets
  • Berries--blue, black and red
  • Cherries and plums

Also, when firing up the grill, throw on some salmon, trout, mackerel or other fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for the brain.

And, finally, don't forget that all-time favorite summer food--corn on the cob. It's a brain pleaser too. Don't slather it with butter, however. Eating too many foods high in cholesterol and saturated fat, like butter, may raise the risk for Alzheimer's disease.