Ways to age-proof your brain

Lesotho Times - - Health -

WHAT’S good for your body is good for your brain. That means eat­ing a bal­anced diet with lots of fruits and veggies and not much sugar, sat­u­rated fat, or al­co­hol, as well as get­ting enough ex­er­cise and sleep­ing about eight hours a night.

But ev­i­dence is ac­cu­mu­lat­ing that a whole host of other ac­tiv­i­ties can help keep our brains young even as we ad­vance in chrono­log­i­cal age.

There is no one magic ac­tiv­ity that you need to take on, but try­ing a hand­ful of the fol­low­ing will help.

Take dance lessons Se­niors who danced three to four times a week — es­pe­cially those who ball­room danced —had a 75 per­cent lower risk of de­men­tia com­pared with peo­ple who did not dance at all, found a 2003 land­mark study in the New Eng­land Jour­nal of Medicine.

Why? “Danc­ing is a com­plex ac­tiv­ity,” says study lead au­thor Joe Vergh­ese, MD, chief of geri­atrics at Mon­te­fiore Med­i­cal Cen­tre in New York City.

“It’s aer­o­bic so it im­proves blood flow to the brain which im­proves brain con­nec­tions. It also pro­vides men­tal chal­lenges.” While it can be hard to prove cause and ef­fect (peo­ple with de­men­tia may cut back on ac­tiv­i­ties), the study en­rolled peo­ple with­out de­men­tia and fol­lowed them over time.

Play an in­stru­ment Whether it’s the sax­o­phone, the pi­ano, or a ukulele, re­searchers found that play­ing an in­stru­ment for 10 or more years was cor­re­lated with bet­ter mem­ory in ad­vanced age com­pared to those who played mu­sic for less than 10 years (or not at all).

Other re­search shows that even lis­ten­ing to mu­sic can help boost your brain­power.

A study from the Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity School of Medicine found that lis­ten­ing to baroque mu­sic (Vivaldi, Bach) leads to changes in the brain that help with at­ten­tion and stor­ing events into mem­ory.

Learn a for­eign lan­guage Be­ing bilin­gual may help de­lay the on­set of de­men­tia. In­di­vid­u­als who spoke two lan­guages de­vel­oped de­men­tia an av­er­age of four and a half years later than peo­ple who only spoke one lan­guage in a 2013 study pub­lished in the jour­nal Neu­rol­ogy.

Ex­perts say the ear­lier you learn, the bet­ter — grow­ing up speak­ing two lan­guages is op­ti­mal — but that it’s never too late and ev­ery lit­tle bit of lan­guage learn­ing helps.

Play chess Play­ing chess, bingo, check­ers, and card games may help keep your brain fit.

A 2013 French study found a 15 per­cent lower risk of de­men­tia among peo­ple who played board games ver­sus those who did not. And the ef­fects seemed to last over the study’s 20-year fol­low-up.

“The idea is that this helps build cog­ni­tive re­serve,” says Dr Vergh­ese, whose study also found benefits to play­ing board games like Mo­nop­oly.

“The more th­ese ac­tiv­i­ties buf­fer against the dis­ease, you may be able to mask the ef­fects of the dis­ease for longer pe­ri­ods of time. It buys you ex­tra time.”

Read more of less Read­ing, in gen­eral, is good for the brain. But read­ing fewer books and ar­ti­cles so you can give them each of them more fo­cused at­ten­tion may be even bet­ter. “Our brain doesn’t do very well with too much in­for­ma­tion.

The more you down­load, the more it shuts the brain down,” says San­dra Bond Chap­man, PHD, direc­tor of the Cen­tre for Brain Health at the Uni­ver­sity of Texas at Dal­las. “It’s bet­ter to read one or two good ar­ti­cles and think about them in a deeper sense rather than read 20.”

Change your font Next time you have to read through some doc­u­ments for work, con­sider chang­ing the type­face be­fore you print them out.

Chances are, the docs came to you in an easy-to-read font like Arial or Times New Ro­man, but switch­ing it to some­thing a lit­tle less leg­i­ble like Comic Sans or Bodoni may im­prove your com­pre­hen­sion and re­call of the in­for­ma­tion, ac­cord­ing to a small study out of Har­vard Uni­ver­sity.

Like­wise, a study at an Ohio high school re­vealed that stu­dents who re­ceived hand-outs with less-leg­i­ble type per­formed bet­ter on tests than the stu­dents who were given more read­able ma­te­ri­als.

It’s a ver­sion of the no-pain-no­gain phe­nom­e­non: When you ex­ert more ef­fort, your brain re­wards you by be­com­ing stronger. But make sure you keep things new by chang­ing fonts reg­u­larly.

Sin­gle-task If you think your abil­ity to mul­ti­task proves you’ve got a strong brain, think again. “Mul­ti­task­ing hi­jacks your frontal lobe,” says Chap­man, who is also the au­thor of Make Your Brain Smarter.

The frontal lobe reg­u­lates de­ci­sion-mak­ing, prob­lem-solv­ing, and other as­pects of learn­ing that are crit­i­cal to main­tain­ing brain health.

Re­search has shown that do­ing one thing at a time — not ev­ery­thing at once — strength­ens higher- or­der rea­son­ing, or the abil­ity to learn, un­der­stand, and ap­ply new in­for­ma­tion.

Write about your stress In one study, col­lege stu­dents who wrote about stress­ful ex­pe­ri­ences for 20 min­utes three days in a row im­proved their work­ing mem­o­ries and their grade point av­er­ages. Stu­dents who wrote about neu­tral events saw no such im­prove­ments.

“We hy­poth­e­sized that stress causes un­wanted, in­tru­sive thoughts,” says study co-au­thor Adriel Boals, PHD, as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of psy­chol­ogy at the Uni­ver­sity of North Texas in Den­ton.

Take up knit­ting Ac­tiv­i­ties that put your hands to work, like knit­ting, cro­chet­ing, and gar­den­ing, are proven stress re­liev­ers, and they may also keep your brain young.

In a 2013 sur­vey of about 3,500 knit­ters around the world, there was a cor­re­la­tion be­tween knit­ting fre­quency and cog­ni­tive func­tion; the more peo­ple knit­ted, the bet­ter func­tion they had.

Find your pur­pose Peo­ple who feel they’ve found their pur­pose in life have lower rates of de­pres­sion and tend to live longer. Stud­ies also show that this pos­i­tive out­look also benefits the brain.

In one study, those who re­ported hav­ing a strong pur­pose in life were more than twice as likely to stay Alzheimer’s-free than peo­ple who did not pro­fess a pur­pose.

To de­velop a sense of pur­pose, fo­cus on the pos­i­tive im­pact you have at home or at work. You could also try vol­un­teer­ing for a cause that’s mean­ing­ful to you. — Time

PLAY­ING board games low­ers risk of de­men­tia among older peo­ple, ac­cord­ing to a study.

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