There is a saying that applies to both mental and physical fitness in later life… “Use it or lose it”!
Just as regular exercise helps to keep one physically fit as the years roll by, so too will regular mental stimulation help to keep those connections in the brain happy and healthy into old age. You need to keep those neurons firing and prevent too much oxidation in the brain to retain healthy function. The physical affects the mental, so it is important to keep both your body and mind in healthy ‘regularly used’ condition if you want both to keep working for you.
Whether you are an octogenarian yoga student or just take a leisurely stroll around the park in the morning, taking regular exercise is a more important tool in protecting your memory than one might think.
Whilst sitting at home, however, one of the simplest brain exercises (useful for those with physical limitations) is a good game of chess. It has been proved to be one of the most useful tools for mental longevity, as it uses both your analytical skills as well as memory skills. It also provides a healthy dose of adrenalin when the game starts getting exciting!
Crosswords are also a useful tool to exercise the brain. Using your powers of recall to think of the correct word is a healthy memory test and an easy pursuit for those living on their own.
For the more adventurous, learning a language or playing a musical instrument are also extremely effective ways of keeping both your memory skills and the brain as a whole sharp and healthy for as long as your body can keep up.
Playing a musical instrument can not only provide relaxing and therapeutic enjoyment for both the player and those around them, but it also involves a host of brain functions that give all the important skills a healthy workout. Remembering pieces of music to play and translating that into the physical is a powerful memory tool. For those without instruments, the voice is the cheapest one of all! Singing is both therapeutic and doing it from memory keeps you ‘on the ball’.
Keeping physically fit is the most important tool for longevity and your memory. Taking gentle exercise every day boosts your circulation, including the circulation to your brain.
The most important thing is to keep those neutrons firing. If we don’t use them, they get lazy and eventually stop working. With the aging baby boomer generation entering old age with a lifetime of 20th century lifestyle diet and stress behind them, the concept of keeping physically and mentally fit is harder for some to make a habit.
In terms of diet, eating plenty of foods with omega-3 (oily fish such as mackerel, tuna and salmon) is a dietary memory booster. Keeping your diet full of antioxidants over the years will help retain brain function by reducing its susceptibility to oxidation and other aspects associated with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Also keeping healthy doses of vitamin B (including niacin and folic acid) in your diet is important for protecting brain function and keeping your memory sharp in later years. Foods such as broccoli, seafood, nuts, seeds and leafy greens are typical sources.
If you remember the Use It Or Lose It motto, then you will help keep your body and mind sharp in later life.