Food for Thought . . .
Sharp Tack, Not Runaway Marbles
According to Humanix Book’s Baby Boomer Survival Guide, those comprising the post-WWII demographic (born 1946–1964) “fear losing their marbles more than they fear death.” And understandably so: though I have a firm footing among Gen Xers (born 1965–1980), watching my aunt swiftly succumb to dementia has shaken me to the core with concern about what lies ahead for me and my mental cylinders.
Think you’re too young to worry about “senior moments"? Think again. In Humanix’ 2 Weeks to a Younger Brain, Dr. Gary Small and Gigi Vorgan report: “Scientists can detect subtle changes in the brain that coincide with mental decline by the time we reach age 40, and our findings show that people as young as 20 already have memory problems.”
As well, medical science has identified genetic markers that predispose an individual to any one of the many forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. However, even those with these markers are not guaranteed the disease over someone without them, and there plenty of environmental and lifestyle factors — those things that are within our control — to help stave off dementia as we age. Aside from regular exercise, plenty of rest, and eating a balanced diet of healthy proteins, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains, here are some recommended tips for keeping your mind fit and challenged at most any age:
- Crank up the tunes. “Recent studies indicate that when we listen to music we enjoy, it improves both our mood and our memory,” Small and Vorgan say.
- A healthy sex life is good for your brain. Princeton University and Claremont Colleges found that “daily sexual activity in laboratory animals reduced stress, stimulated growth of new memory cells, and strengthened connections between those cells.” This is true in humans as well, with engaging discussions producing a similar effect.
- Play games. Scores of websites offer free video games and brain-building exercises. Not into the Internet? Do crosswords or sudoku the old-fashioned way. Whether online or pen in hand, start at a comfortable level, and once you’ve mastered it, increase the degree of difficulty.
- Brush your teeth with your left hand (if you’re right-handed). In fact, use your non-dominant hand for as many everyday tasks as possible. Our brains crave unfamiliar stimuli and new mental challenges.
- Pick up a new skill or pastime. Learn to play the piano, cook, or paint. Even better — learn a second language. Small and Vorgan say that “bilingual people have a lower risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease than those who only speak one language.”
To pick up more tips on keeping your mind sharp and healthy, read Dr. Gary Small and Gigi Vorgan’s 2 Weeks to a Younger Brain.