Keeping Your Brain Sharp & Healthy As You Age

21 Oct 2020

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As you age, you’ll notice a few changes not just in your appearance, but also in the way you retain and recall new memories. There will also be times when you experience those dreaded “senior citizen moments”, forgetting basic information. As troubling as these moments may be, most of us do experience them occasionally and you don’t need to freak out about the onset of dementia. 

Memory loss or a decline in memory can occur at any age, but the risk grows higher as we age. While aging may be a major risk factor and an uncontrollable one, it is not the sole factor that causes cognitive decline. When significant memory loss occurs in the elderly, it is often due to some underlying health condition, brain injury, or neurological illnesses. 

If you’re worried that your age may cause memory decline and you want to lower this risk, here are a few fun activities you can do to keep your brain sharp and healthy as you age. 

Healthy Habits Are The Key To  A Healthy Life

Before diving into activities to strengthen cognitive function, it makes sense to consider some healthy habits for your general wellbeing. Numerous studies have shown that one can help prevent cognitive decline by maintaining healthy lifestyle habits as mentioned below [1]:

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6 Simple Tips For An Active Brain

Keep Learning

A higher level of education has been associated with better and consistent mental functions, especially during old age. According to experts, advanced learning can help you keep your memory strong, as it gets a person into the habit of being mentally active [2]. 

Use All Of Your Senses

The more senses you use while learning something, the better. Your brain’s ability to retain information and recall it is higher when you use all or most of your senses. In one study, adults were shown a series of emotionally neutral images, each having a different smell. They were not asked to remember the images they saw. After some time, they were shown a new set of images, but without odors this time. They were then asked to identify which images they’d seen in the previous set. The results showed that they had excellent recall for the odor-paired images [3]. As explained by researchers, this is because retention and recollection become stronger when different senses are used, rather than just one.

Repeat What You Want To Remember

If you want to remember something that you’ve just heard, read, watched, or thought of, repeat it out loud or write it down. For example, if you’re having a conversation with someone and they’ve just told you their name, use the name frequently while speaking with them [4]. Repetition is widely used as a learning strategy with kids and it works just as well with us adults.

Revisit Your Dreams

More often than not we have dreams that we don’t remember the next morning or don’t bother to recall them. However, trying to remember your dreams from the previous night can be an interesting and effective exercise for your brain. This simple task will put your brain to work and you might also be able to discover some new and interesting things about yourself because dreams are nothing but a window into your subconscious mind.

Prioritize Your Brain Use

Don’t clutter your brain and waste mental energy trying to remember where you kept your keys or when your favorite show airs, instead set reminders and use organizers to keep up. This will give you enough brain space to focus on storing and remembering new and extremely important information. 

Believe In Yourself

Although memory loss is linked to aging, it is not inevitable and most aged adults don’t experience significant declines in memory. Middle-aged and older learners perform poorly in memory tasks when they’re exposed to negative stereotypes about aging and cognitive decline. People who believe that their memory is not in their control are less likely to work at improving it and therefore more vulnerable to memory loss. If you believe there’s room for improvement and you work at it, you have a better chance of keeping your mind sharp [1].

Brain Exercises to Boost Memory and Cognitive Functions

Test Your Recall: Make a list; it could be anything – grocery items, things to do, etc, and memorize it. Later, try to recall the items on the list and see how many you get right, or how many you remember. For more fun and intense mental stimulation, make the list as challenging as possible. 

Let The Melody Speak: Learn to play a new musical instrument from scratch. Studies suggest that learning something new and complex is ideal for the aging mind.

Calculate In Your Head: Try to calculate and solve math problems without using a pencil, paper, or computer. To challenge your brain a little more, try solving the problems while walking around in the house.

Learn A Foreign Tongue: The process of learning a foreign language is extremely stimulating for the brain. According to a study in the journal Annals of Psychology, a rich vocabulary has been linked to a reduced risk for cognitive decline.

Paint Word Pictures In Your Head: Think of a word in your head, and then try to think of other words that begin or end with the first two alphabets. For example, if the first word you thought of was ‘bird’ then the second word could be ‘bicycle’. You can do your own permutations and combinations and create your own rules for the game, as long as it is mentally stimulating. 

Draw A Map From Memory: After returning home from visiting a new place, try and draw a simple map of the area. 

Challenge Your Taste Buds: When eating a different cuisine or something that you haven’t cooked yourself, try and identify individual ingredients used. If you can identify subtle herbs and spices, you get extra brownie points. 

Put Your Brain To Play: Don’t worry, we won’t ask you to play sports that require intense physical effort. But to keep your brain young and healthy, solve mind benders and puzzles such as crossword, sudoku, chess, etc. Such games will force your brain to think and will keep it active. 

References: 

  1. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/6-simple-steps-to-keep-your-mind-sharp-at-any-age
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26794600/#:~:text=Abstract,attack%20(TIA)%20remains%20unknown.
  3. https://wp.unil.ch/discoverunil/2016/11/using-multiple-senses-to-improve-memory/
  4. https://memorise.org/brain-articles/memory-repetition-reinforcement

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