You have probably seen the same articles I have…do something new to keep your brain active and you will keep your memory longer and slow the aging process. But is it true? Can a daily dose of crossword puzzles, learning a new language or even playing games with your grandchildren really make a difference towards avoiding or delaying dementia?
According to a recent study recently published in Neurology Magazine, exercising the brain keeps it at a higher functioning level. Keeping the brain stimulated all through your life is important, but, says Dr. Robert Wilson, lead author of the study conducted at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, “cognitively stimulating activity is related to better cognitive health in old age.”
The study examined almost 300 people for 6 years, testing them annually for memory and thinking. They also asked the subjects about reading, writing and their participation in brain stimulating exercises throughout their lives.
Those who kept mentally active showed a 32% slower rate of mental decline than those who did not participate in such things from childhood on. People who are active mentally can still develop Alzheimer’s disease or other memory losses but they tend to do it later than those who are less brain active in later years.
Another researcher said that the brain is a muscle and keeping it active and exercised can lead to the growth of new brain cells. This is important as the more the brain is engaged, the harder it is for plaques and other detrimental material to enter the brain. Physical exercise of other muscles works the same way and older people should continue to exercise their bodies as well as their brains. And just as your physical trainer encourages you to work on different muscles on different days, the brain experts say you must use different parts of your brain, working on puzzles, crosswords, playing a musical instrument and reading different kinds of books. It is important to vary the mental activity as well.
Of course, to participate in these muscle building activities, one must feel motivated and energized by what he or she is doing. Otherwise, one may lapse into depression and withdraw. Look for activities that you enjoy, especially something new that you haven’t done before. If you always read mysteries, try a book of essays or short stories; if you already play the piano, try a guitar or other stringed instrument. Even just listening to complex music can stimulate the brain.
So go out and find something new and interesting to do today. You are never too old to begin and you will probably find that you have skills you didn’t know you had. Now please excuse me while I change my shoes and head for a tap dancing class…