When it comes to good health and fitness, most of us are familiar with the term “use it or lose it.”
As it turns out, what is true for physical strength and building muscle and bone density, is also true of memory and mental acuity. Here are a few tips and mental exercises that can help you keep your memory sharp, and maybe even stave of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Include physical activity in your daily routine – Speaking of exercise, physical activity is not only good for building muscle and losing weight. Staying active increases blood flow to your whole body, including your brain.
Stay mentally active – Just as physical activity helps keep your body in shape, mentally stimulating activities help keep your brain in shape — and might keep memory loss at bay. Do crossword puzzles. Play bridge. Take alternate routes when driving. Learn to play a musical instrument. Volunteer at a local school or community organization.
Socialize regularly – Social interaction helps ward off depression and stress, both of which can contribute to memory loss. Look for opportunities to get together with loved ones, friends and others — especially if you live alone. My personal recommendation? Karaoke! My wife and I do Karaoke singing at least 3 times a week, we have built up a great social group – including 2 fellows that sing with us regularly one of whom is in his mid-80s, and the other 95, and you would never know it!
Get organized – You’re more likely to forget things if your home is cluttered and your notes are in disarray. Jot down tasks, appointments and other events in a special notebook, calendar or electronic planner.
Take some classes – Formal education in any stage of life will help reduce your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. For example, take a class at a local college, community center or online.
Quit smoking – Evidence shows that smoking increases risk of cognitive decline. Quitting smoking can reduce that risk to levels comparable to those who have not smoked.
Keep your heart healthy – Studies have shown that it’s not “all in your head.” Your heart also plays a vital role in cognition and memory because any kind of cardiovascular disease can reduce blood flow to the brain. Obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes — negatively impact your cognitive health. Take care of your heart, and your brain just might follow.