Senior moments? Not anymore. Maintain a healthy brain and improve your memory and cognitive function with these smart habits.A rich new area of science is analyzing which healthy habits best keep your mind and memory blithely unaffected even when a brain scan would reveal the inflammation.
Play games with your frontal lobe
Whether you’re deliberating a chess move or bluffing at cards, you’re also giving the frontal lobe, the area of your brain that handles executive function, a workout. “The frontal lobe is particularly vulnerable to degeneration and the effects of aging,” says Dr. Kosik. According to a 2014 University of Wisconsin study, older adults who routinely worked on puzzles and played board games had higher brain volume in the area responsible for cognitive functions, including memory, than those who didn’t play games.
Protect your mind from your heart
Scientists surveyed volunteers on seven familiar heart-health factors and tested their cognitive performance at two points over eight years. The results found that the more heart-healthy habits people had, the less cognitive decline they exhibited. A stronger cardiovascular system means a stronger pipeline of nutrients to the brain, says lead author Hannah Gardener, ScD, an epidemiologist in the Department of Neurology at the University of Miami. The seven heart-health ideals to strive for may be familiar health advice (if they seem overwhelming, Gardener points out that “each one helps”): Not smoking (or quitting); healthy body mass index (under 25); physically active (for at least 150 minutes a week); healthy total cholesterol (under 200 mg/dL); healthy blood pressure (under 120/80 mmHg); healthy blood sugar (under 100 mg/dL); and balanced diet (rich in fruits, veggies, and whole grains; low in sodium and sweets).
Get brain circuits singing
Listening to or playing music can activate the motor cortex (touching a piano key or guitar string), the auditory cortex (hearing the notes you make), and the emotional centre, or limbic system (feeling moved by a beautiful passage). “Circuits and networks are stimulated by these activities, which help keep the brain healthy,” says Dr. Kosik. Older adults who had at least ten years of musical experience did better on cognitive tests, according to a 2011 Emory University study.
As Jon Lovitz would say, “Acting!”
Learning lines for a production or an acting class engages the hippocampus, the temporal cortex, and the frontal lobe, says Dr. Kosik. So follow the lead of one of Jon Lovitz’s Saturday Night Livecharacters, Master Thespian: In one study, those who went to acting classes twice a week for four weeks boosted their ability to remember words, numbers, and short stories. A follow-up study found they improved word fluency by 12 per cent and word recall by 19 per cent.