One of the things we worry about with aging is our mental acuity. Most of the women I speak with can accept the physical decline but the mental one is a source of concern. It impacts our ability to remain independent and function in a way that is satisfying to us. Research has some very encouraging news. The brain grows new brain cells right to the end of life, in part it’s our actions that determine what becomes of them.
While those with a college education are half as likely to develop symptoms of Alzheimer’s, and the same is true for those with complex jobs there are things that can be done at whatever age you are to increase your cognitive reserve and reduce your risk of dementia by more than a third. The two most important components are engagement and challenging.
Engagement well engages your brain in many ways requiring connections and associations to fire up. A challenge creates new neuropathways and puts those new brain cells into active use. If something is a challenge say learning something new it is likely also engaging as you need to devote your attention to learning it. This is why you hear of brain games and the importance of trying new things. So what exactly can you do to boost your brain power and stave off dementia??
Here are the top three things:
Learn Something New – something that challenges you, it can be a new hobby, a class, a different spin on an old pastime, the key is that it is hard meaning you need to engage and actively participate in it.
Engage – read, meet friends for dinner, see a movie, listen to live music, basically interact, connect and participate.
Move – we all know exercise is good for us but for the brain specifically it increases blood flow, helps those new brain cells survive, and boosts the area of the brain responsible for memory and learning, a simple 20-minute brisk walk daily helps brain function more than either of the two things above.