We all know that exercise is a key to good health, but it’s just as important to exercise your brain. Keeping your mind fit can help prevent, or at least delay, dementia, even if you are genetically predisposed to it. So get out there and get ... thinking.
Learn new games or skills. Doing the daily crossword is great, but learning new skills is what really challenges the brain. If you already enjoy the crossword, try Sudoku or a new card game.
Get moving. Turns out physical exercise is good for both the body and mind. And every little bit helps. Even 20 minutes of moderate exercise three times a week can help maintain the brain.
Reduce stress. Chronic stress also stresses the brain. Try relaxation exercises, or sign up for a yoga class.
Eat heart-healthy foods. Eating foods that are part of the Mediterranean diet — vegetables, fish, fruit, beans and nuts — can help slow cognitive decline. Be sure to stock up on fruits and vegetables, especially the colorful, crunchy varieties.
Get spicy. Herbs and spices that are high in antioxidants may help build brainpower. Try spicing up your food or drinks with cinnamon, black pepper, basil, parsley, ginger, oregano or vanilla.
Be involved. Finding a mission or purpose can help your mind stay sharp. Try finding new volunteer opportunities, or get involved with a group at church to get engaged.
Take your vitamins. As we age, declines in digestive acids and certain medications can interfere with the absorption of vitamins from foods, so it’s important to make sure you are getting the nutrients you need. Vitamin B12 is particularly important to brain function.
Reduce other health risks. Chronic health conditions like hypertension, diabetes and obesity are often associated with dementia. Controlling these risk factors can help keep your brain healthy.
Lift some weights. No, you don’t have to be a bodybuilder to get the positive effects of incorporating some resistance training into your daily activity. Older women who participated in a yearlong weight-training program at the University of British Columbia at Vancouver did 13 percent better on tests of cognitive function than a group of women who did just balance and toning exercises. If you don’t have any weights, you can use simple household items like canned soup or vegetables.
Be social. Not only does interacting with friends and neighbors make you happy, it makes your brain happy, too. Subjects in a University of Michigan study did better on tests of short-term memory after just 10 minutes of conversation with another person.