Keep Your Head in the Game
Like our bodies, our brains change with age. But just because you take slightly longer to find your keys or can’t quite recall the name of your first-grade teacher doesn’t necessarily mean you’re losing your memory. For most people, age-related brain changes are simply a normal part of the privilege of growing older.* Still, there are things you can do to nurture your noggin so it stays in its best form, however many birthdays you’ve had.
Here are ten ways to be both older and wiser:
- EAT. A healthy diet that’s low in saturated fats and high in fruits and vegetables feeds your hungry brain (and is heart-healthy at the same time). Enjoy whole grains, poultry, fish and nuts in abundance and drink alcohol in moderation.
- MOVE. When you give your body a workout, it elevates your heart rate and increases nourishing blood flow to the brain. Establish an exercise routine filled with a fun mix of activities you know are safe for you. (When in doubt about whether a particular physical regimen is a good idea, ask your doctor.)
- ENGAGE. Maintaining an active social life keeps your brain on its proverbial toes. Join a book group, volunteer, host a weekly game night. Get out (or stay in) and have some fun with your friends and neighbors.
- THINK. Keep your brain awake and alert by challenging yourself with new and varied intellectual pursuits. Take a class, learn a language, write poetry, play a musical instrument, read bestsellers. Don’t ever stop flexing your cognitive muscles.
- MANAGE. High blood pressure, diabetes and obesity have all been linked to cognitive impairment. Make sure you’re managing your existing conditions according to your doctor’s recommendations and do what you can to keep them in check – or eliminate them altogether.
- QUIT. Smoking is hard on the vessels that deliver blood to the brain. If you’re a smoker, make a commitment to break the habit. Talk to your doctor about treatment options and support. If you’re not a smoker, stay that way!
- CHECK. Talk to your doctor about all the medications you take, including prescriptions and over-the-counter products. Make certain that your inventories are still current and your dosage amounts are up to date. Also, since some drug interactions can create confusion and even short-term memory loss, work with your doctor to make sure not to take any medicine combinations that could cause cognitive problems.
- SLEEP. This, if you’ll pardon the pun, is a no-brainer. The more rested you are, the sharper you’ll be. Create a routine that allows you to tuck in earlier, wake up later or both. Care for your mind by catching plenty of Zs.
- RELAX. Extreme stress and worry can actually mimic the signs of cognitive impairment. If you’re prone to tension, train yourself to take breaks from the daily grind. Establish a yoga practice, learn how to meditate or simply close your eyes and breathe deeply for just a few minutes a day.
- PLAY. There is still no hard scientific evidence proving that so-called “brain games” – those popular online courses that sometimes promise to stave off dementia – can actually prevent degenerative brain disease. But the experts all agree on the physical and emotional value of having a little competitive fun. So go ahead and get in the game!
*If you are experiencing memory or cognitive issues that are serious enough to worry you or your family members, talk to your doctor.