As we all know, exercise provides a wealth of benefits. It makes you stronger, more flexible, more energetic, and increases your stamina. In the same way that it benefits the muscles of your body, regular exercise can strengthen your brain, too! By using your mind in fun, new ways, you can improve your memory well into old age and dramatically reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Recent studies have found that the best thing you can do for your brain is to keep learning new things. Experts divide leisure activity into three types. There’s the physical activity that keeps your body in good working order – activities like walking, biking, gardening, and weight training. Passive activities include watching TV, socializing, watching movies, and listening to music. It’s the activities in the third group, however, that really boost your brain’s juices. These intellectual activities include reading, writing, creating artwork, woodworking, and puzzle-solving.
It’s the amount of intellectual activity you do over the course of your life that matters. Studies have shown that people who are less mentally active in their younger years, between ages twenty and sixty, are four times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s. In other words, you’re never too young to give your mind a workout.
Because the brain transmits information through connections between neurons, it stands to reason that the more connections you can build, the better off your brain – and your memory – will be. A great way to build neural connections is by learning new things.
Taking up a new hobby such as painting, cooking, playing a musical instrument, or a game like chess provides your brain with a serious workout. You’ll get a similar strengthening dose from crossword and sudoku puzzles, word jumbles, and other brain teasers.
You can also eat your way to a healthy brain. Studies have shown that fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants can help keep an aging brain in good shape. Aim for purple fruits and veggies like blueberries, cranberries, plums, and prunes. Foods that are high in B vitamins like niacin and folic acid can also help keep the mind sharp. These foods include legumes (beans, lentils, and chickpeas), fish, lean meat, dairy, grains, and dark leafy greens.
Recent studies have also shown that eating curcumin, a spice found in turmeric and curry, can prevent memory loss. If you possibly can, add a daily dose of curry to your diet.
Americans are living longer than ever, so it just makes sense to prepare your mind for a lengthy old age. Taking a few key steps can make all the difference. Try something new, learn a new skill, and keep your brain firing on all cylinders well into your golden years.