Sound familiar? We all have momentary brain lapses from time to time. We have so many things going through our minds at once, it’s easy to become distracted.
You have probably heard these referred to as “senior moments” – even though we can have memory lapses at any age. In fact, memory loss is not typically caused by age alone. Cognitive decline is more likely to be due to organic disorders, brain injury or neurological illness.
As we discuss often in the this blog, living a balanced life can benefit your overall health and well-being in so many ways. Studies have shown that we can help prevent cognitive decline and reduce the risk of dementia by living a healthy lifestyle. For instance, staying physically active, getting plenty of rest, being social, eating a balanced diet, and giving up bad habits, such as smoking and limiting alcohol to one drink a day, can all help improve your brain health.
In addition, you can actively exercise your brain muscles. Here are some strategies you can use to help protect and sharpen your mind:
Just as physical activity keeps your body in shape, mental activity can shape up your mind. And, exercising your brain doesn’t really require any special equipment. Simply read a book or the newspaper. Sign up for an online newsletter that interests you. Take a cooking class or take classes toward a degree. Sign up for martial arts or make pottery. Learn a new language. All of these activities help stimulate your mind and keep your brain flexible.
Games help you concentrate and use strategic planning. This mental stimulation increases your mental clarity. Play a round of golf or hit the tennis court. Play pool with some friends. Do a crossword, Sudoku puzzle or other brain teaser. Play chess, checkers or cards – even solitaire on the computer or a tablet. Or, grab the video controller from your kids or grandkids and play with them. Choose video games that involve strategy or problem solving. Believe it or not, games like tennis and bowling can give you a physical workout, too!
If you can play games with friends or family, that’s even better. Social interaction with friends can have many health benefits, including improving your mood and cutting down on stress. Both depression and stress can contribute to memory loss. So, go out to eat with a group of friends. Get together and play cards. Have a family game night. Socializing and staying connected is just another form of mental exercise.
Speaking of exercise, get up and get moving! Physically active people tend to have better memory and cognition than those who are inactive. Exercising gets your blood flowing all over your body, including your brain. This increased blood flow may help keep your mind sharp. Weight training, toning exercises and improving balance can also help you stay fit and strengthen your brain. Here are some tips to help you get motivated to exercise.
Exercise helps relieve tension and assists you in coping with the stresses of the day. Chronic stress can wear on your body and mind. Stress causes your body to produce cortisol – which can lead to impaired memory. Find ways to relax and recharge your body and your mind. You’ll feel better, and it’s good for your brain!
Take care of your body
In addition to regular exercise, you should keep your body tuned up. That means getting a physical every year and following your doctor’s recommendations. If you have any chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes or depression, you need to treat them to prevent any serious problems in the future. The better you take care of yourself, the better your memory will probably be.
A healthy diet may be good for your brain health, too. Studies have shown that a Mediterranean diet may help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. This type of diet includes lots of fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts and beans. Include plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Choose low-fat protein sources like fish, lean meat and skinless poultry. And drink plenty of water to stay hydrated!
Find your purpose
Do something that you love. Do something you’re good at. Find that something that makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning. Having a mission in life can help you stay mentally sharp. You may have a job that you love. You may like to volunteer in your community or help out at the local school. You may have a hobby that you truly enjoy. Whatever it is, have fun with it!
Exercise your brain every time you get a chance. Do something new. Try something different. Just remember that when you flex your brain muscles, you are improving your cognitive skills and keeping your mind sharp!