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Keeping Your Brain On The Ball

Keeping Your Brain On The Ball
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BY KITT WALSH

Since hitting 50, I confess I am often reduced to answering a question by saying, “Please hold. I am retrieving that information.” It’s not that I don’t have the info, it’s that my memory isn’t as sharp as it once was.

That lack of agility is annoying now, but would prove devastating if it evolved into true dementia as I aged.  According to a study quoted in the journal Neurology, researchers found that if I keep doing some mental lifting now, my brain will remain more limber later.

A new industry has sprung up, neurobics or exercise for the brain–puzzles, teasers and mental exercises based on some studies that show, not only can we hang onto the mental faculties that we have, but can build new neural pathways and actually reverse cognitive decline.

With this new industry, of course, come vendors who sell such puzzles and teasers or brain fitness programs to people (visit www.lumosity.com and www.dakim.com for two of them) but there is plenty you can do without spending a fortune:

Read a book—every day. And not just romance novels. Stretch your brain (and if you need to look up a couple of words; all the better. Try to learn a new vocabulary word a day.) Join a book club and join or-initiate-lively discussions.

Take up chess. Join a chess club and compete. Or find somebody to play Scrabble with or play Words with Friends online.

Partake of puzzles. Yes, Sudoku will do, but test yourself against the New York Times crossword puzzle and only do jigsaw puzzles if they have more than 500 pieces.

Start studying history. Delve into the Civil War (rent Ken Burns The Civil War DVD series to start) or the American Revolution (a fabulous blog to follow is 1775 online. The author’s amazing research may set you off on some of your own.) Attend some reenactments and ask the reenactors some questions or become one of them yourself.

Learn a language. Just because you almost flunked French in high school doesn’t mean you can’t learn Spanish now. Or take up the violin or bagpipes.

Attend an art class. Study perspective and anatomy or learn to chisel wood or stone.

Study math again. Math problems are wonderful exercise for the brain. Join an adult class or consider hiring a tutor or volunteering as one at a local high school.

Play action video games. Your grandkids will be happy to teach you. Hundreds have been developed for Wii and Xbox and your reflexes will benefit from killing monsters. Or check out computer games like MindFit and Posit Science touted to help keep your aging brain moving.

Hit the library or Amazon for books on the subject. Try The Better Brain Book: The Best Tool for Improving Memory and Sharpness and Preventing Aging of the Brain by David Perlmutter and Carol Colman or Younger Brain, Sharper Mind by Eric Braverman or Ageless Memory: Simple Secrets for Keeping Your Brain Young for People Over 50 by Harry Lorayn or The Memory Bible by Gary Small.

Keep moving. Though doctors haven’t figured out why, seniors who exercise, even if its only walking a few times a week, have healthier brains than couch potatoes. What’s good for the heart is good for the brain, it appears.

Pay attention. I’m not the only one with a retrieval problem. People our age multi-task all the time and give our brains no time to properly imprint or file information. No wonder we can’t bring up the memory when we need to do so. Concentrate on one thing at a time, link items to something visual (like the old trick to remember names) and let it sink in for a moment before moving on the next task.

 

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