Most of us know the importance of taking care of our brains through healthy eating, exercise and regular healthcare appointments. Neurologists also have found that regular mental stimulation lowers the level of harmful proteins in the brain that increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Luckily, brain care isn’t just a matter of hard work. Many activities that we find pleasurable also stimulate the growth of new cells and connections in the brain.
- Music. Neurologists are learning more about the complex way music works across many areas of the brain. Music helps people with Alzheimer’s disease and brain injuries access memories and even remember new material. Recent studies show that taking music lessons when we are young may have a protective effect on our brains—but it is never too late to take part in this beneficial activity! Buy a harmonica, take piano lessons, join a community choir or load up your music player with interesting new tunes to give your mind a stimulating boost.
- Video games. Brain fitness programs are now a multibillion dollar industry. But even popular mainstream video games can be protective against cognitive decline. For example, a recent study in the Archives of Neurology showed that the wildly popular Angry Birds game provides a good brain workout. And researchers from North Carolina State University found that playing the World of Warcraft online role-playing game improved cognitive function in senior test subjects. Next time you’re tempted to chide your grandkids about their gaming, offer to join them instead!
- Dog walking. Contact with animals offers emotional benefits, encourages socialization and decreases stress. And dog owners have a built-in incentive to go for a brisk brain-boosting walk or two each day. Just a few precautions: the National Institute on Aging reminds seniors to stay safe during Fido’s daily constitutional: Dress in layers when it’s cold, bring water on hot days, and check for ticks after walks in the woods. A leash-training class for rambunctious dogs will help avoid falls.
- Do a good deed. We humans are wired to take pleasure in helping others. Now, neurologists have discovered that altruism—selfless acting for the good of others—is linked to greater longevity, a lower stress level and reduced depression. Dr. Stephen G. Post of Stony Brook University School of Medicine says that if there were a pill that provided the same results as doing good for others, “It would be a best seller overnight.”
- Bingo. Last but not least, a new look at an old favorite! Activities professionals who work in nursing homes and adult day centers sometimes complain about the “bingo stereotype,” but research from Case Western Reserve University shows that the game provides good mental exercise and improves thinking skills, even for players who have Alzheimer’s disease. So next time you call out B-I-N-G-O, remember that the real prize is a boost to brain health!
Source: IlluminAge. Copyright 2016 IlluminAge