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Published on: July 2, 2014
by Arti Patel for Huffington Post:
It may start to feel like your brain is slowing down, that you’re becoming forgetful or are just unable to solve word puzzles as quickly as you used to. While we can’t reverse the process of aging, health experts say it’s never too late to start exercising the brain.
According to a recent survey by the International Federation on Ageing, Canadians know it is possible to maintain a healthy brain, but more than half of respondents admit they don’t know how, says geriatrician Michael Gordon.
“Our brain is the key to the good health of our entire body so we need to take steps to protect it and at the same time keep it stimulated,” he says.
As we age, our brains also change. They become smaller in size, Gordon says, and some of their cells begin to decline in function or die out altogether. And just like any other organ in our body, our brains can only stay in shape if we keep them stimulated.
“It seems to be possible that exercising the brain may help delay degeneration, modify memory loss and improve mental activities of various kinds,” he says.
Exercising your brain starts with looking at your daily habits, Gordon says. Analyzing your diet, workout regime and even your regular route to work are all ways to improve the brain’s sharpness and overall health.
And while specific foods like fatty fish and diets that are low in saturated fats all contribute to a healthy aging brain, Gordon says just eating more fruits and veggies and restricting “double-sized” portions are all ways to stimulate your noggin.
Here are 10 simple ways to exercise your brain:
1. Play Brain Games
Yes, those addictive daily crosswords and Sudoku puzzles can be good for your brain. Practicing your basic math and spelling skills, brain games are meant to challenge your noggin and make you think.
Exercising your body also means exercising your brain. Thirty to 60 minutes of regular exercise including yoga, walking, cycling, swimming or gardening are all easy (and fun) ways to get your brain stimulated this summer.
3. Eat Healthy
Diets that include a variety of healthy food groups all contribute to a healthy brain. “Limit foods like caffeine and alcohol as well as foods high in glucose and all its commercial equivalents (cane sugar, sucrose) as well as salt as these can increase your risk of illnesses, like diabetes, high blood pressure and stroke,” says geriatrician Dr. Michael Gordon.
Spend a few minutes a day catching up on the latest TV gossip or talking about an upcoming event or trip. Gordon says socializing regularly with family and friends also helps keep your brain alert.
5. Learn Something New Every Day
This can be anything from reading (or trying) a new recipe to learning a new word to taking a new route to work. Getting out of your regular routine and trying something new will help stimulate and challenge your brain.
6. Learn A New Language
Studies have already shown that bilingualism can lead to a healthy aging brain, but Gordon adds it also helps your brain come out of its comfort zone.
7. Talk To Your Doctor
Gordon says if you’re over 55, have regular check-ups with your doctor regarding your brain’s health. ” The incidence of illnesses, like atrial fibrillation double, with each decade of life beginning at 55, and put’s a person at increased risk of a severe and debilitating stroke,” he says.
Everything from books to blogs to the latest news report, reading helps your brain learn new words and boost your memory.
9. Drink Lots Of Water
Gordon says a sharper brain also means sticking to a healthy fluid diet. Unless you have medical conditions that requires you to drink a specific amount of water, aim for at least six to eight cups a day.
10. Listening To Music
We all know music can be healing and Gordon says instrumental and non-vocal tunes can all help with concentration and focus. “Even if it is not yet shown to improve cognitive function, there is evidence that music promotes brain function and reactivates important and positive memories which may be very helpful in those living with dementia,” he says.
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