Brain Boosts Can Help You Age Well
Have you ever walked into a room and forgotten why you were there? Or lost your car in a parking lot?
Aging takes its toll on every part of the body, our brains included. As we age, some of our brain cells die and the volume of our brains actually shrinks a bit. These changes contribute to thinking and memory errors.
At first, it may seem funny. And later, maybe a little scary. Does it mean you’ll develop dementia? What kind of memory loss is a normal part of aging? Are there ways to reverse it?
As we age it’s common to forget someone’s name, an appointment, or what day of the week it is—and then to remember it later. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have a brain disease. This guide from the Alzheimer’s Association can help you understand what normal age-related memory loss looks like.
To preserve your memory and thinking, it’s important to keep your brain active and nourished as you age. Just like any other part of your body, your brain needs exercise and a healthy lifestyle to stay in shape.
Not sure where to start? Here are some ways to improve your brain power:
Stimulate your thinking: Give your brain a workout with fun activities that challenge your mind. Brain activities stimulate new connections between your nerve cells and may even help your brain generate new cells.
- Do "mental gymnastics" by solving math problems or playing memory games. You can find free games and downloadable apps on sites, like Lumosity, CogniFit, Elevate, and Fit Brains. Or check out this article from our blog for some fast memory games that will keep your mind sharp.
- Play board games, card games or other types of games. Sudoku, crossword puzzles, solitaire or charades will all engage your mind and keep you actively thinking.
- Read. Subscribe to a magazine or newspaper, buy an e-reader, visit a library or join a book club. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, people who spend more time reading preserve their memories better and longer as they age.
- Learn a new language. Learning foreign languages contributes to the elasticity of the brain and its ability to code information.
- Play a musical instrument. Playing sounds on an instrument will improve your listening and hearing skills and create a protective effect on your brain, according to a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience.
Participate in meaningful activities: Everyone needs a sense of purpose in order to feel healthy and happy. Spending time on hobbies or with people you care about can improve your mental state. Also, doing something you love creates new neural pathways that improve memory and critical thinking skills.
- Volunteer with an organization or a neighborhood program.
- Take or teach a class, like knitting, photography, art or history. Your local community centers and colleges can offer some low-cost options. Consider joining an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), available at some colleges. This is a membership-based group of adults over 50 who come together to teach and to learn.
- Build your social networks, online or in person. Join a club, visit with family and friends, or hang out at a local community center. Strong social ties have been associated with a lower risk of dementia and longer life expectancy.
Exercise: Using your muscles also helps your mind. Exercise will cause more nourishing blood to flow to your brain, spur the growth of new nerve cells, and increase your brain cell connections.
- Try walking, bicycling, swimming or dancing. Aerobic exercises can improve your ability to perform tasks that require thinking. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you should get at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise each day. But if you can’t do that much, any activity is better than none. Start with a short walk every day until you become stronger and more confident.
- Take a yoga class or a Pilates class. Do bodyweight training or a resistance band workout. Resistance training enhances memory, according to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Eat healthy: People who eat a Mediterranean-style diet are less likely to have issues with cognitive impairment and dementia.
- Do eat—fruits and vegetables, lean meats, fish and poultry, whole grains, nuts, and beans.
- Don’t eat—processed foods or fast foods.
- Limit your intake of solid fat, sugar and salt.
- If you’re worried you aren’t getting enough nutrients, talk with your doctor about vitamins and supplements that can help.
Keeping your brain healthy is like a four-legged stool—with each of these strategies contributing to your overall well being and balance. Design your own healthy brain lifestyle according to your needs and interests. When you do, be sure to include mental challenges, meaningful activities, exercise and a healthy diet in your approach. You’ll find an active, nourished brain will contribute greatly to your overall health and happiness.
Y0011_97755_C 0919 C: 09/2019
Filed under: Medicare