Don’t Forget to Exercise Your Most Important Organ – Your Brain!

Continuing this month’s theme on ways to maintain brain health, having previously focused on music therapy, brain exercises or how vitamin D deficiency can contribute to the risk of Alzheimer’s, today we’re highlighting two brain health resources. 

Fact or Fiction:  All short-term memory lapses are an early sign of brain decline.

Fact or Fiction:  Crossword and Suduko puzzles can prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

I’ll confess that I didn’t answer all the questions correctly on the What is Brain Health’s Fact or Fiction quiz, but then that was the point of the quiz. It’s time to dispel some myths about what happens to our brain when we age and why everyone, not just seniors, should be incorporating brain exercises into their daily exercise regime. (If you’re interested in the answers, they are both fiction.)

What is Brain Health? is a campaign that partners the Administration for Community Living (ACL) with the National Institutes for Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other research organizations to provide educational resources on how people can maintain brain health. Materials range from an in-depth look at the anatomy of the brain by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke to a post on how belly fat may affect your risk of dementia. Marcia Gay Harden is the spokeswoman and her involvement with the campaign was inspired by witnessing her mother experience memory loss.

What I found fascinating was the slideshow of how the brain changes through the decades. From the ages of 10 until 30, “complex reasoning, long-term memory functions begin to peak, and creativity may be at its highest.” While there is some consolation that there is only slight decline in brain volume during your 30s, once you reach your 40s, “the first signs of gradual decline in brain volume begin to show: short-term memory may be less sharp.”

For caregivers seeking specific material on how to care for someone with dementia or how to prevent brain injuries, the ACL’s Brain Health webpage is a helpful resource. Brain injuries, such as traumatic brain injury, are of particular concern, not just for those who have served in the military, but also older adults. Statistics reveal that “falls cause 81% of TBIs in older adults.”

Though we unfortunately cannot prevent the natural aging process, there are ways to support your brain health: discovering a new talent, keeping a full social calendar and eating healthy. Best of all, exercising your brain doesn’t require hitting the gym or taking walks when it’s raining. You can stay inside and work on a puzzle or learn a new language on the computer. If you need inspiration for what to keep your mind activity, consider joining your local senior center; they have a monthly calendar filled with dance classes, outings and game nights. Trivia nights at the local bar or pub are also a great way to socialize and exercise your brain, though alcohol should only be consumed in moderation.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to do a Suduko puzzle.

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