Is staying sharp a casualty of aging? Many of us have had the experience of forgetting where we left our car keys or difficulty recalling someone’s phone number. Sometimes these incidents can just be annoying, and may be due to fatigue or stress. It may be easy to think that as we get older, remembering even simple things like a phone number will fall by the wayside. However, there is plenty of research to support the notion that losing one’s brain power does not have to be inevitable. Here are a few simple steps for staying sharp that may yield remarkable results:
Tips for Staying Sharp
Exercise As You Are Able: Although it is well known that physical exercise is important for the health of the body, it also helps keep our brains sharp. Two studies presented at the 2011 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Paris added to the growing body of research suggesting that exercise can help protect your brain against mental decline. In fact, researchers from the Conference found that a brisk 30-minute daily walk can delay mental aging by five to seven years! If walking is too difficult, try doing breathing and “chair” exercises which can also be tremendously beneficial. Staying sharp means staying fit.
Stimulate Your Brain: The more you use your brain, the stronger and more agile it will be. Crossword puzzles, reading about new topics, or learning a new skill are great ways to keep your mind sharp. This also holds true when it comes to social activities. Staying sharp is helped by quality time spent with friends and loved ones, which can be wonderful for brain health as it often reduces stress and depression.
Eat a Healthier Diet: Eating a diet of fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins provides your brain with the vitamins and amino acids it needs to stay healthy. Eating a healthy diet also reduces the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and other health conditions that contribute to cognitive decline. Staying sharp can be delicious!
Try to Stay More Organized: It is hard to stay focused in a cluttered space. Donate items you don’t need, send junk mail directly to the recycling bin, and file bills and receipts as soon as you are done with them. Many people find it helpful to write appointments on a calendar and maintain a to-do list. You may even sense a boost in confidence as you start to check things off the list! Staying sharp might mean simplifying.
Find Ways to Give Back: Volunteering offers opportunities to meet new people and learn new skills. However, giving back can also provide a sense of purpose which, in turn, can improve overall mental health. Why not celebrate Volunteer Appreciation Week (April 22-26) by getting involved in a community project or reaching out to a neighbor who could use a helping hand?
For more insights about brain health and staying sharp, take a look at the Dana Foundation’s website at www.dana.org.
Staying sharp mentally as we age may be a challenge, but hopefully this article, first published in AARP Maine’s The Maine Point, has introduced you to some of the things we can all do to help keep our brains focused and our memories intact.
Jane Margesson, AARP Maine Communications Director