We all know it’s important to exercise our bodies. But did you know it’s also important to exercise your brain?
Studies show challenging your mind can help grow your brain and protect cognitive functioning as you age. In fact, certain attitudes, lifestyle choices and exercises can decrease your chances of developing reduced cognitive ability, dementia or Alzheimer’s later in life.
Try these six ways to help your brain stay healthy:
Exercise increases blood flow to the part of the brain that controls memory. Staying active also affects your ability to learn, manage stressful settings, make decisions, and recall facts and memories.
- Stretch to increase the flow of spinal fluid to your brain.
- Consider swimming as a low-impact way to increase blood flow to the brain.
High amounts of stress can increase your likelihood of developing cognitive problems.
- Reduce stress with exercise, naps, counseling, meditation, hobbies and spiritual growth.
- Practice breathing exercises to relax and increase blood flow to your brain.
Feed Your Brain
Good nutrition benefits your mind as well as your body.
- Chew food longer, since it takes your brain up to 20 minutes to register that your stomach is full. A healthy weight leads to a healthy brain and body.
- Eat foods high in omega-3 fatty acids (like salmon, tuna and flaxseeds). These nutrients are vital to the brain’s communication network.
- Eat your B’s. The B vitamins can suppress amino acids that have been linked to brain shrinkage and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s. Fortified cereal, other grains and leafy green vegetables are good sources of B vitamins.
- Drink water, as dehydration can limit your ability to concentrate and make decisions.
Solving puzzles and playing games are great ways to challenge your brain’s language and memory.
- Consider acrostics, cryptograms, sudoku and crossword puzzles. When you master one puzzle, switch to a new, more challenging one.
- Check out the Washington Post’s online game section.
- Play games that involve strategy, puzzle solving or new learning of some sort. These include games like chess, checkers, Scrabble, Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, Trivial Pursuit, Monopoly and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.
Doing the same thing is easy—making the usual recipe, walking the same route, playing the same card game. But taking the easy course doesn’t help build a better brain. Challenging your mind with new things helps build new nerve cell connections and protect against future cell loss.
- Consider enrolling in a continuing education course through a community college.
- Visit museums, zoos and historical sites.
- Attend workshops, talks and other gatherings where experts share their knowledge and research.
Friendship motivates you to stay active and try new activities.
- Join a book club, community group or exercise group.
- Set coffee dates with a friend.
Keep your brain healthy and happy with proven tactics such as those found in Terry Eckmann’s book 101 Brain Boosters.