Report Ranks States According to ‘Brain Health’

By  //  March 19, 2014


America’s Brain Health Index is based on factors like diet, exercise, smoking rates and social well-being to rank states by brain health.

According to a report that ranks “brain health” by state released last week by the National Center for Creative Aging (NCCA), by focusing on controlling key lifestyle areas we can actively support brain health and function.

NCCA, an advocacy organization affiliated with The George Washington University and working with life’sDHA, a nutritional products brand, was founded in 2001 and is dedicated to fostering an understanding of the vital relationship between creative expression and healthy aging and to developing programs that build on this understanding.

NCCA’s goal is to spread the organization’s message to aging adults that simple lifestyle changes can create healthy, active minds with better memories, regardless of genetics.


For the 2014 America’s Brain Health Index, part of an NCCA national health education campaign called Beautiful Minds:Finding Your Lifelong Potential, each state’s overall “brain health” is measured by how well it scores on a 21-point index on areas such as diet, smoking, physical health, social well-being, education, mental engagement, Alzheimer’s disease prevalence, and its religious, spiritual, and community involvement.

According to the report, the 10 states along with the District of Columbia that have the healthiest brains are:

Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as Atlantic and King mackeral and Atlantic salmon (above), enhance 'brain health.'
Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as Atlantic and King mackerel and Atlantic salmon (above), enhance ‘brain health.’

1. Maryland
2. Washington
3. Colorado
4. Connecticut
5. Alaska
6. District of Columbia
7. Vermont
8. New York
9. New Hampshire
10. Georgia

Maryland is number one thanks to high consumption of fish–which is linked to better brain health–and low rates of Alzheimer’s deaths, and smokers.

The two lowest ranking states—Alabama and Mississippi—also had high rates of obesity and cardiovascular disease, as well as low rates of residents engaging in reading.

Despite a high prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease, as expected from our high population of seniors, Florida ranked a very respectable 12 based on high consumption of fish, a low incidence of cardiovascular disease, few smokers and high participation in spiritual/religious activities.


According to Majid Fotuhi, founder and chief medical officer of NeurExpand Brain Center and a lecturer at Harvard Medical School, nutrition plays the biggest role in brain health.  “The bigger the belly, the smaller the brain,” Fotuhi says, adding that the biggest deterrents to having a healthy brain include obesity, being sedentary, sleep apnea, stress, and concussions.

Dr. Majid Fotuhi

Meanwhile, exercise, a healthy diet, meditation, learning new things, and memorization stimulate the brain the most. Fotuhi says exercising for just three months can encourage the brain to grow new cells—a process called neuroplasticity. “Your brain is constantly changing almost from day to day…The more you do good things, the more likely it is that you will have a strong brain as you grow older,” Fotuhi says.

“I feel frustrated when people feel helpless about their brain health,” he says. “They should go for a walk, get together with friends, take supplements and have a healthy meal. Do the things that are healthy for the brain… The effects of your genes can be reversed.” (Sifferlin, TIME, 3/11; Leonard, U.S. News & World Report, 3/10; Advisory Board Daily Briefing, 3/14).