As we age, our bodies undergo many physical changes. Many of these, like changes in hair color or wrinkles, are easy to notice. Others, like the changes our brains experience, are a little less obvious but can have a noticeable impact.
Changes in the brain that come with age can be responsible for anything from the occasional “senior moment” to more serious cases of cognitive decline. One way to lessen your chances of experiencing significant cognitive decline is to engage in activities and make lifestyle choices that stimulate your brain.
Many people keep mentally active by reading and doing puzzles or brain games. These activities may have certain benefits. For instance, they may help the brain to become more adaptable so that it can compensate later for age-related brain changes. However, according to AARP, recent research suggests that their effectiveness in combating cognitive decline may have been overestimated.
This certainly doesn’t mean that you need to toss out your Sudoku books or stop doing the Sunday crossword. These activities are fun and engaging and definitely have a place in your life if you enjoy them. However, if you’re looking for maximum mental benefits, the following suggestions are some of the best ways you can stimulate your brain.
Learn New Things
When you learn something new, your brain is actually forming new connections, and that’s great for brain health.
Even if you haven’t attended school for decades, it’s never too late to take advantage of new learning opportunities. Have you always wanted to learn how to knit? Does your new tablet leave you feeling completely baffled? Would you love to impress your family with some newly acquired cake decorating skills?
There’s no end to the possible skills or subjects you could learn about. Check with your local senior center or adult education service to find out about their course offerings. Or you could take an online college course or two if your interests are more academic. Now is a great time to pursue interests that you may not have had time for earlier in life.
Make Social Connections
Connecting with other people can keep your brain active and can help you feel less isolated and more engaged in the world around you. Keeping in touch with family and friends is one way to stay connected socially. But even if your family isn’t local and your circle of friends has dwindled for one reason or another, there are ways to be socially active.
Your local senior center or Area Agency on Aging will likely be able to suggest activities where you can meet seniors with interests that are similar to yours. Volunteering is another great way to make social connections while also gaining personal fulfillment.
It’s a well-known fact that physical activity plays an important role in keeping your body healthy. Exercise has also been linked with mental benefits. For instance, it increases the size of the area of the brain that’s associated with memory and learning. It also stimulates the brain’s ability to make and maintain network connections.
Make sure to check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise routine.
Eat Foods That Promote Brain Health
Regularly eating foods that are high in omega 3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and antioxidants can improve the health of your brain.
Here are a few of the best sources of brain-boosting nutrients:
- Green, leafy vegetables.
- Fatty fish.
- Tea and coffee.
- Nuts and seeds, especially walnuts.
Unfortunately, there’s no miracle solution to prevent cognitive decline. However, by doing all you can to stimulate your brain you greatly increase your probability of staying mentally sharp.
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