Saturday, July 10, 2010

Tips for aging gracefully

Tips for aging gracefully
By: Marissa Anteby

Brain plasticity has a lot to do with how well you function later in life. If you think of your brain like a ski slope, the more your ideas run down different trails, the less rigid one particular track will get. In order to keep all the different aspects of your intelligence vibrant and fresh, it's important to constantly use different parts of your intellect. You want your brain to be pliable, soft and supple, not hard and pocked with deep ruts. Embracing a 'use it or lose it' mentality propels new thought and healthy functioning of your mind and body. So, what specific types of activities will promote the synapses of the brain to fire up and work for you? Anything that gets you thinking in new ways. Here's a list of examples:

- Cross word puzzles, Sudoko, card games.
- Altering regular routines: brushing your teeth or hair with your less-dominant hand, standing on one foot while washing your hands, reading the newspaper upside down.
- Memorizing short lists of words or numbers.
- Consciously engaging in meaningful social situations.
- Physical exercise that elevates your heart rate.

The benefits from cognitive training such as the suggestions listed above, can be long lasting. Excelling in memory retrieval, reasoning, or visual searches, will build your proficiency in that particular area. However, to impact all three areas, you must train your brain in all three. For example, it's not enough to be a stealth Mah Jong player, your brain health rests upon the continual challenge of assimilating new information and mastering new tasks. So, play Mah Jong and learn a new language or take up golf. The varied combinations of what you do affects your mental well-being. The more active you are in all three arenas; memory, reasoning and visual searches, the better chance you have of forestalling the decline of your overall cognitive performance. Your own personal efforts, not medication, is the most powerful tool you have in remaining mentally fit.

Staying physically active is vital to linking your mind and body on a regular basis. Studies have shown that in order to stay sharp and robust, physical activity is key. It stimulates the blood flow throughout your body and brain. Moreover, exercise prolongs independent functioning and also enhances the quality of your life as you age.

The time to start using more of your brain is now. So, get out there and get moving. Make a commitment to yourself to learn something new every day!

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