Power Up Your brain
“Use it or lose it.” It’s true for both the mind and body.
The best way to stay sharp as you age? Exercise your brain for a few minutes every day.
Do everything in your power now to strengthen your brain. It will pay off later, says the latest Alzheimer’s research.
An estimated 10 million baby boomers — one out of eight people 65 and older — will develop Alzheimer’s disease in their lifetimes. The disease is marked in part by a large-scale dying off of neurons, the nerve cells that transmit signals involving memories, thoughts and feelings. The numbers only grow with age. Almost half of the population 85 and older have symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
Source: Alzheimer’s Disease Center, University of Michigan
Small changes, big impact
The best thing you can do for your brain (and your body) is start today. Take a few minutes to do something that stimulates brain-cell growth.
Try what’s opposite your natural skills
If you write with your right hand, use your left. Comb your hair, brush your teeth or use your computer’s mouse with the “wrong” hand. Anything that requires you to pay closer attention to an automatic behavior will stimulate brain-cell growth.
There’s nothing wrong with comfort, you just have to break out of it every once in a while. The brain thrives on the unexpected. If you like word games, but aren’t so good with numbers, skip the word jumble and work on the Sudoku. Take a new route to the store, try a new restaurant or follow a new walking path.
Enroll in a class
Continuing your education can challenge your brain and ward off dementia. If you’re not into formal classes, join a book club or participate in educational events.
Wake up your senses
Take in the sights and sounds you would normally take for granted – the smell of fresh air or the sound of birds chirping. As we age, our brain tends to not process what we hear, see and smell the same way. Awaken to the world around you to activate the sensory part of your brain.
Having a limited social network and few interactions with others has been shown to increase your risk of dementia by as much as 60 percent. Research shows that a stimulating 10-minute conversation can boost memory abilities. Make lunch dates, pop in on a friend to say hello and organize get-togethers.
Board games activate the regions of the brain responsible for memory. Dig out the classics or try new games for a reason to get together with friends.
Learning and playing music is associated with lower risk of dementia. Whether it’s dancing, singing or simply listening, music can lower stress hormones that slow down memory loss. Dancing will also activate brain motor centers that form new neural connections.
for your body and mind
Get enough rest
Sleep is critical for your brain. While you’re sleeping, the brain is generating new neurons, solidifying memories and making connections between old information and new.
Just 20 minutes of walking a day can lower blood sugar. That helps stoke blood flow to the brain, so you think more clearly. You don’t have to go all out to benefit. Harvard researchers found 90 minutes of exercise per week — just 30 minutes, three times a week — was associated with better cognitive function in older women.
Brush and floss well
Severe gum irritation can contribute to brain inflammation, which kills neurons. In 2010, researchers at New York University reported that people with gum disease showed impaired cognition.