If you’ve ever wondered what’s going on with your memory – or your lack of it – just know there’s a scientific explanation going on. A 2015 study in Psychological Science reported that working memory, which is the ability to hold on to facts like phone numbers and addresses for a short period of time, reaches its high point at age 25. Yes, 25.
You get to hold on to what you’ve got until age 35, and then working memory starts declining. The silver lining, according to experts, is that long-term memory stays intact for much longer. Even so, as Helpguide.org explains, the hippocampus, or the region of the brain involved in the formation and retrieval of memories, often deteriorates with age. Also, older people often experience decreased blood flow to the brain, which can impair memory and lead to changes in cognitive skills.
The good news, shared by Oak Forest’s Alexis Eaton who also happens to work at the Alzheimer’s Association, Houston and Southeast Texas Chapter, is that there are steps we can all take to reduce the risk for cognitive decline. What follows are some of the 10 Ways to Love Your Brain.
Break a sweat
This is probably a no brainer but doing exercise that elevates your heart rate and increases blood flow to the brain and body is good for your body and your brain. There are a huge array of exercise options available but Leader reader Glenda Vann Ogden says it is tap aerobics for her.
Hit the books
Formal education in any stage of life will help reduce your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Reader Denisse Ojeda says she’s always known that learning new things increases your brain plasticity.
“I’m a crazy learner, I’ve taught myself to be left handed and to wear my watch on my right hand and when my brain gets used to that I switch,” she said. “I speak three languages and recently taught myself SQL (code).”
Did you know that quitting smoking can reduce your risk for cognitive decline to levels comparable to those who have not smoked? Now, you do. So quit.
Follow your heart
Evidence shows that risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke — obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes — negatively impact your cognitive health. Just start with walking. According to Harvard Medical School walking for 2.5 hours a week—that’s just 21 minutes a day—can cut your risk of heart disease by 30 percent.
Fuel up right
This is another no-brainer but eating a healthy and balanced diet that is lower in fat and higher in vegetables and fruit will help reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Check a cookbook out from the library on Mediterranean or Mediterranean-DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) recipes. Or check out the 7-Day DASH Diet Menu at EatingWell.com.
Catch some Zzz’s
Not getting enough sleep due to conditions like insomnia or sleep apnea may result in problems with memory and thinking. If you can’t get to sleep, separate yourself from your device and grab an old-fashioned book and a cup of Chamomile tea.
Staying socially engaged may support brain health. Pursue social activities that are meaningful to you. Don’t know where to start? What about volunteering with HISD to work with kids at a neighborhood school or check out http://volunteerhouston.org.
Reader Karen Looney is a retired piano teacher, who now plays the piano as a volunteer at MDA.
“I’m constantly looking for new songs to arrange and practice, and playing in public is a great way for my mind to stay in shape,” she said.
Challenge and activate your mind. Build a piece of furniture. Complete a jigsaw puzzle. Do something artistic. Play games, such as bridge, that make you think strategically. Challenging your mind may have short and long-term benefits for your brain.
Oak Forest artist Johnny Rojas brings blank paper and several pencils to Memorial City Mall.
“In the food court area there’s a carousel/merry-go-round,” he said. “The challenge is to draw a certain object on the carousel. As the carousel is running, I pick a certain object, a horse or details on a special ornament. Then I’ll try to draw it. I have five times in three minutes that I will see the object as it passes by. In doing this challenge, the object can be just the face of a horse, not the whole horse. The goal is to see the details as they pass and try to draw them. Not the big picture.”
Do you have another way to love your brain? We’d love to hear about it. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org