Train your brain: 4 ways to flex your mind muscle
8/9/2016 10:00 AM
As middle-age approaches, certain thinking tasks may become more difficult. Minor memory problems and “senior moments” may even cause a concern about developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
“While it is true that some brain tissue ‘shrinks’ as we get older, our brain function doesn’t have to,” said Rebecca Shively, a Nurse Practitioner at Corridor Primary Care in San Marcos. “The human brain is capable of forming new nerve cells and connections throughout a person’s entire life span.”
Like muscles, the brain’s ability to perform will decrease if it is not used. Neurons can get stronger if they are progressively challenged and if the supply of oxygen and nutrients is protected. When learning stops, mental abilities will decline. There is plenty a person can do to fight the decline of cognitive function, and it’s never too late to start.
1. Become a life-long learner
Find opportunities to develop new skills that require focused attention that you find challenging.
- Learn to play an instrument
- Work complex puzzles
- Learn a new language
2. Do physical activities
Participate in a cognitively rich physical activity. As skills become easier, it doesn’t exercise your brain as much. Activity that requires balance, leg strength and dexterity can also exercise the brain directly. In addition, studies show that regular cardiovascular exercise creates new nerve cells, increases circulation and oxygen to the brain and stimulates sensory and motor nerves.
- Racquet Sports
- Brisk Walking
3. Maintain social networks
Research shows that interacting with other people exercises the parts of the brain used for listening, word comprehension, speaking and expressing yourself, paying attention and staying alert. Group activities also support mental health.
Religious or faith-based activities
4. Take care of mental health
Research shows that prolonged stress releases chemicals that damage the hippocampus, a brain structure that is important for memory. Healthy management of stress prevents damage to this structure. Depression is also a risk factor for dementia.
- Consider counseling
- Discuss medication with a doctor
- Practice mental relaxation (breathing, meditation, prayer)
Corridor Primary Care is located at 601 Leah Ave. in San Marcos. To make an appointment, call (512) 396-1000.