We have known for years about the importance of physical exercise and muscle strength. Now we are hearing more about the importance of cognitive health.
Research suggests that socializing, keeping your brain stimulated and engaged, getting proper nutrition and physical exercise, and protecting your brain are some of the ways to promote cognitive health.
Let's focus on brain stimulation and protecting the brain.
Use it or lose it
The "use it or lose it" philosophy suggests that we need to continually exercise our brains by finding ways to mentally challenge ourselves.
What constitutes a mental challenge is different for every individual, but it’s a good idea to avoid doing the same things the same way with the same people all the time.
If your goal is to strengthen your mind, research suggests that you seek out new experiences.
Anything that initially appears complex or complicated or requires problem solving is a great workout for the brain.
Try these simple activities to keep your brain active and help prevent memory loss. Consider printing and sharing this information with the caregivers and family members in your life.
Additional activities that can strengthen your brain include:
- Ditching the calculator. Do math by adding items in your head or on scrap paper.
- Avoiding hiring out the work. Try learning how to complete small projects or minor home repairs yourself.
- Playing the waiting game. Killing time in a waiting room or checkout line? Try spelling the names of places backward or memorizing friends’ phone numbers.
How some of these activities engage different parts of the brain:
- Preparing an unfamiliar meal engages the frontal lobe. It requires paying attention, planning, using judgment, following instructions and coordinating the order and timing of steps.
- Undertaking a home project such as repairing a broken sink or finishing your basement also engages the frontal lobe. It also challenges the cerebellum — your command central for balance and physical movement.
- Participating in an exercise class engages the parietal lobe. You'll be working on spatial awareness, and receiving and processing information about movement coming from the rest of the body.
- Spelling names backward and memorizing phone numbers engages the temporal lobes — the controllers for your language functions.
Many of these activities may challenge you in other ways, too. That’s good, because brain fitness depends on several factors, such as interacting socially, managing stress, maintaining good nutrition and exercising.
These all support well-being, which is vital to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Protect your head
A report from Johns Hopkins Medicine found a 65 percent reduction in the risk of traumatic brain injury among those who wear motorcycle helmets. Taking precautions is worth it.
Since there’s a link between head injuries and Alzheimer’s disease, take proactive measures to prevent them.
- Wear a seatbelt in vehicles.
- Wear a helmet when bicycling, skiing, motorcycling or participating in other high-risk activities.
Cognitive fitness is a lifelong activity, and it's never too late to begin strengthening your brain.
Have questions about how memory care can help your loved one?