A 2009 Mayo Clinic study found that of 1,300 people ages 70 to 89, those that had regularly engaged in mentally challenging activities, such as reading, playing games, and doing crafts, in their 50s and early 60s were 40 percent less likely to develop memory loss than those who hadnâ€™t. Follow these simple steps to stay sharp as you age.
- Hone your manual skills: Learn a new instrument, start quilting, build a model airplane, or get going on those carpentry projects youâ€™ve been putting off. Such activities not only help promote hand and finger dexterity, they also foster the development of new neural connections.
- Learn one new word every day: This engages the brainâ€™s language centers, frontal lobe, and memory circuits. â€œItâ€™s like aerobics for your brain,â€ says George Washington University Neurology Professor Richard Restak, MD.
- Challenge your short-term memory: Although iPhones and BlackBerries may be convenient, they have one downside: Theyâ€™ve robbed us of the need to commit things to memory. Do it anyway. Memorize your grocery list, your friendsâ€™ phone numbers, the US presidents in order, every stateâ€™s capital city. As the saying goes, if you donâ€™t use it, you lose it.
- Mix it up: Try a wide variety of mental games, from crossword puzzles to computer games. Experts say seniors tend to do what theyâ€™re good atâ€“over and over again. While that may improve proficiency, it doesnâ€™t form new neuronal connections or boost neurotransmitter production in the brain like new and diverse experiences do.
- Be friendly: Engage in social activities as much as possible. Multiple studies have shown that living a solo life can vastly increase your risk of dementia. One recent Swedish study of 2,000 men and women found that people living alone at age 50 had twice the risk of developing dementia 21 years later than those who were living with a partner in middle age.
- Shut the TV off: Research shows that those who watch minimal TV are as much as 50 percent less likely to develop Alzheimerâ€™s disease.
- Keep working: Resist the temptation to retire early. A recent British study of 382 men found a significant association between later retirement and later onset of Alzheimerâ€™s disease.
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