Your mind doesn't have to slow down as you get older. Experts say you can keep your brain functioning at its highest level just by keeping it in shape, much like how you exercise the muscles in your body.
Dr. Gary Small, MD, director of UCLA's Longevity Center and co-author of "The Small Guide to Alzheimer's Disease," tells Newsmax that memory and brain power peak during our 20s and mild forgetfulness creeps up as we age.
"The good news is that compelling evidence indicates that our everyday habits can have a significant impact on protecting brain health and fortifying memory capacity," Small, the author of the Mind-Body Health Report, reveals.
Here are the best activities to get your brain in shape:
- Exercise. In addition to improving heart health, regular exercise fosters new brain cell growth while protecting existing cells, according to Healthybrains.org. Experts say you should schedule a variety of exercises in your weekly routine, including aerobic activity for 30 minutes a day, strength training twice weekly, balance movements 3-5 times weekly, and flexibility stretches 3-5 times a week.
- Challenge your mind. The old saying "use it or lose it" means that some of the forgetfulness and loss of mental acuity we suffer is a result, in part, of non-use, says Dr. Ellen Kamhi, Ph.D. According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, seniors who participated in mentally challenging activities several times a week reduced their risk of dementia by 63%.
- Eat healthy meals or snacks. "Antioxidant fruits and vegetables protect the brain from oxidative stress, which causes wear and tear on our neurons as we age," notes Small. "Omega-3 fats from fish fight brain inflammation, helping us reduce the risk for age-related cognitive decline. Minimizing consumption of processed foods and refined sugars reduces the risk for diabetes, which further protects brain health throughout life."
- Listen to Music. A study published in the journal Heart and Lung found that people who listen to music as they exercise perform twice as well on verbal fluency tests than people who don't listen to music.
- Get enough sleep and relaxation. Sleep energizes you, improves your mood, and may reduce buildup in the brain of an abnormal protein called beta-amyloid plaque, which is associated with Alzheimer's disease, according to Healthybrains.org. Practicing meditation and managing stress may also help ward off age-related decline in brain health.
- Stay connected. Spending time with others and being connected to friends and family, even it's done via FaceTime or phone, is good for your brain health. Studies show that most socially interactive people have the slowest rate of memory decline.
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