Forgetting where you put the car keys. Struggling to recall the name of someone you just met. These so-called “senior moments” can happen at any age, and while slip-ups aren’t necessarily cause for concern, they can get you thinking about ways to prevent cognitive decline as you age.
There are many ways to keep your memory and focus sharp, and it’s never too early to start flexing your brain and using that old noggin in new ways. Just like any other muscle, the brain strengthens with practice, and atrophies without use. Doing crossword puzzles and playing Sudoku can help, but that’s just a start!
Here are a few tips for maintaining mental agility and preventing Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Some of them sound like a ton of fun!
Learn something new: Research shows that those who learn throughout their lives are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s and Dementia. And as we age, learning new tasks that push the brain out of its comfort zone is increasingly important.
So maybe you’ve always wanted to learn Spanish or Russian. Or taking up tennis, learning to play the guitar or starting dancing appeals to you. What you learn is less important than how processing new information stretches your brain. And if you’ve always been reading and pushing your brain, don’t stop — just keep in mind it’s exploring new mental terrain that makes a difference.
Say involved. Maintaining strong social connections can reduce the risk of cognitive decline as we age, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. If you work or live with someone, socializing is easy. If not, seeing friends and extended family often, staying involved in local community organization or volunteering for a cause can help. Anything to avoid social stagnancy makes a difference!
Get moving: We know that the mind and body are intertwined, and balancing physical and mental exercise is key keeping the brain sharp. Even brisk walking just three times a day can make a huge difference. Setting workout goals can also help you stay focused and active, whether that means training for a race or keeping ongoing appointments with a workout buddy at the gym.
Test your recall. Older adults may find forgetfulness embarrassing and frustrating. While brain functioning does change over time, memory loss and aging doesn’t have to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. One study found that even simple tasks like memorizing lists, looking for patterns in strings of numbers or letters and visual concentration had a positive influence on memory for years down the line. Keeping shopping lists or reminders around the house are simple, practical ways to stave off forgetfulness. Want to get started? Test your word recall, face recognition and reaction time here.
Finally, a healthy diet can also decrease the risk of cognitive decline. So why not get cooking — or moving, learning and socializing — today?