Stay Sharp

The old saying “use it or lose it” is true. If you stretch your brain it will keep your mind sharp. Keeping mentally more active and doing challenging activities, you will more likely stay sharp. Some suggestions to achieve this are to read a book, go to a lecture, listen to the radio, play a game, visit a museum and learn a second language.

Researchers at Duke University created exercises they call “neurobics”, which challenge your brain in thinking new ways. Use your five senses to learn and exercise your mind. Substitute your left hand periodically if you are right handed. When going to work, use a new or different route. Can you recognize foods by the taste alone? Try it and challenge your brain.

Take advantage of walking or swimming and keep your heart rate up. They aren’t sure why but the physical activity might increase your blood supply to the brain and improve those lines between the brain cells. This can help your memory, imagination and your ability to plan tasks.

Choosing healthy foods that are good for your heart and waistline will also build brainpower. If you are obese in middle age, you will be twice as likely to have dementia later on. Keep that cholesterol and blood pressure down. Bake or grill foods and use “good” fats while eating colorful fruits and veggies.

Alcohol can have long-term effects that will, over a long period of time, shrink the frontal lobes of your brain. Once that damage is done, there is no reversing it. Substitute that soda for fruit juice or good old water.

Playing video games will train your brain, just like playing an instrument early in life gives you clearer thinking when you’re older. Increase and improve your movement, memory, planning, and fine motor skills.

Music helps tremendously to keep your brain functioning, especially playing an instrument that boosts mental functions that have nothing to do with music. The memory and ability to plan along with greater hand coordination helps, and it’s fun!

Meeting and talking with others also sharpens your brain, no matter if it’s at work, home or just out in the community. All social activities will improve your mind so volunteer, take a class or just call a friend.

That nasty stress will hurt your gray matter that contains cells that store and process information. Ways to chill out are by taking deep breaths, finding something that makes you laugh, listen to music, practice yoga or meditation and finding someone to talk to.

Sleep is very important to the brain so be sure to get enough every night, especially before and after you learn something new. When you are tired, it’s difficult to focus on things and if you sleep after learning something, your brain files away the new info to be recalled at a later time.

As we get older we may not remember things as easily as we used to and this is normal. Write things down, use the calendar on your computer or phone, focus on one task at a time and learn new things one step at a time. I always believed and heard in the past that as an older adult the mind is kind of like a computer. There is so much information stored there after all those years it just needs to sort through that data to find what you are looking for. Eventually, it does come to the front!

My worst thing is recalling names, but this has always been a problem for me, so nothing there is really new, just worsened. Repeat a person’s name when talking to them or invent a funny image or rhyme to link with their name. This might help in recalling this information a little faster. Remember, we older adults are all in the same boat!

–Dr Fredda Branyon

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