Everything slows down with age, especially our brains. Sadly, the old saying, “if you don’t use it, you lose it” is true in the case of plasticity, the brain’s ability to change. As we get older, it becomes harder for the brain to learn new things and recall information from the past. As frustrating as it is to feel disoriented and experience memory loss, it isn’t the end for your brain. Like your muscles, your brain needs daily exercise to stay in shape. Check out these nine ways to keep your brain sharp well into old age.
Not only is regular exercise good for the body, but it’s also good for your brain. Exercising improves blood flow to the brain and increases oxygen and glucose levels. A well-oxygenated brain is sharper and has improved mental functions. Unlike other forms of exercise, walking is not strenuous and requires less oxygen and glucose, therefore, you may be able to feel the oxygenated effects more when walking. Not to mention, exercise releases endorphins, the feel-good chemicals that reduce pain and improve your mood. And who doesn’t want that?
Eat more berries:
In addition to eating a well-balanced diet, aging adults might want to increase their berry intake to delay memory decline. According to a recent study conducted by Harvard researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a high intake of strawberries, blueberries, and flavonoid-rich berries can, over time, delay memory loss in older women by two and a half years. The high antioxidant compounds found in blueberries and strawberries may help preserve brain function.
Play brain games:
One of the best ways to stimulate the brain and keep it sharp is to play brain games. Sudoku, chess, crossword puzzles, and checkers are just a few brain games that probe memory, language, and math skills and improve concentration and strategy. Another fun mental exercise is to test your memory by recalling information from several years ago, such as addresses, phone numbers, and the names of old neighbors or teachers. Studies have shown that stimulating brain games may even help thwart Alzheimer’s diseases, dementia, and memory loss.
Skipping out on family gatherings and social activities may have a devastating effect on your brain function and memory in your senior years. Those who maintain strong relationships and engage in regular social activity are more likely to have good mental health and ward off diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s. Regular social interaction may also have lasting effects on your memory and cognitive function. Keep your brain healthy and sharp by maintaining a strong social circle and visiting with friends and family on a regular basis.
Reading is one of the best ways to boost your brain power and keep it sharp. Reading can improve your vocabulary and writing skills, as well as introduce you to new skills and knowledge that can help you solve problems and make better decisions in life. Aging adults who read on a regular basis may have a more active imagination and a heightened sense of creativity.
Learn something new:
As we age, we get set in our ways and become more reluctant to learn new things. A lack of new, challenging stimulation can make you feel less sharp. The brain needs to be exercised daily and one of the best ways to keep it sharp is to learn something new. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn Italian, play the guitar, or take an art class. It doesn’t matter what you do or how well you do it, just going through the motions of learning a new skill is a challenge in itself.
Traveling stimulates the brain and exposes you to new and exciting experiences. Whether you’re visiting a friend or exploring an unfamiliar place alone, you will most likely have interesting and memorable social encounters. Traveling awakens your senses and lifts your spirits while allowing you to use important navigation skills to get to and from your destination.
Get more sleep:
Sleep is crucial to maintaining a healthy brain. In order for the brain to process new information and store it to memory, it needs ample rest. Sleep also helps you retain information and perform better on tasks throughout the day. Sleep apnea, insomnia, and other sleep disorders can negatively impact cognitive functioning. Those who are sleep deprived may experience severe problems with memory, problem-solving, and learning.
Chronic stress can have a devastating effect on your mind and body. An increase in the stress hormone cortisol can hamper nerve cell growth and lead to impaired memory. Chronic stress can weaken the immune system, making you more susceptible to illnesses. It also wreaks havoc on your mental health and can lead to debilitating mental disorders such as anxiety and depression. Manage your stress and keep your brain healthy with stress-reducing activities like yoga, meditation, exercise, listening to music, and socializing.
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