Exercise your brain and your body
Scientists studying the brain are on both sides of the aisle when it comes to touting playing brain games as a way to improve memory. It does not take a genius to realize that using the brain to its maximum capacity is a benefit for everyone.
An article from the National Institute on Aging – NIH (NIA) notes, “some changes in thinking are common as people age such as trying to recall names, find the right word, multitasking and paying attention.” NIA also explains that “older adults can still learn new skills, form new memories and improve vocabulary and language skills.”
Normal, age-related memory loss occurs in most people and doesn’t have a direct relationship to dementia, Alzheimer’s or other brain diseases.
“Research so far has not found that participating in various brain games alone will reduce your risk of dementia,” stated Dr. Julie Brody-Magid, clinical director of the Memory Disorders Assessment Clinic at Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital in an article from Harvard Men’s Health Watch. “But they may help with improving select brain skills and can play an important role in maintaining overall brain health,” she continued.
Good heart health translates to better brain health, noted Brody-Magid. She encourages embracing multiple lifestyle factors, such as not smoking, eating a diet based on ample whole fruits and vegetables, doing cardiovascular exercise, managing stress and limiting alcohol. “Manage blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels.”
Getting regular exercise and staying physically active does build cognitive reserve. Remember, any physical activity, no matter how long, can help improve one’s body, mind and mood. It is suggested that moderate to intensive exercise for 30 minutes, five days a week can help increase blood flow to the brain.
Many researchers believe that brain games and other mental stimulus can expand the beneficial effects of exercise. Taking classes at the local community college, meeting friends for coffee to discuss ideas, and attending local art shows and performances can help with the mind’s resilience when partnered with a regular exercise routine.
There are online apps such as Luminosity, Fit Brains Trainer, Eidetic and many more. Be aware that most of the brain games state FREE, but there are in-app purchases that do cost. Some apps are actually free so read the fine print.
Mix it up every day. If crosswords are a daily favorite, the next day try Sudoku or go for a walk. Force the brain to do something new. Never played bridge? Now is the time to give it a try, or have the grandkids demonstrate how to play a video game.
All-in-all, be courageous. Learn to play the guitar, take a pottery class, jump in and swim laps, walk up the new Rueter-Hess incline, play a new brain game, start to crochet, get out the old Trivial Pursuit game…the list is endless. The key is to accept the challenge and try something new to stimulate the brain and strengthen the body.