Arthur Guiterman once said, “Active minds that think and study, like swift brooks are seldom muddy.” As we age, we often hear how important it is to keep physically active, but it is of equal importance to keep the mind active also. There are many researchers who hold the belief that changes that affect the mind as we age, for example memory loss, are lifestyle related. The brain is just like our muscles, it will get weak if we don’t exercise it.
Studies have shown that keeping yourself in good physical shape affects your mental clarity. Keeping as physically active as possible and eating a healthy diet, especially one that is rich in vitamins E, B and omega-3 fatty acids are thought to help lower the risk of dementia. Monitoring your cardiovascular health and controlling your blood sugars, cholesterol and blood pressure also play a significant role in safeguarding your mental strength. Ensure you are getting quality sleep, as that also contributes to proper mental functioning.
Another key factor in keeping an active mind is to keep your mind challenged daily. One great way to do that is by playing games. Easy ways to exercise your knowledge and fine tune your problem-solving skills include work or number games such as word finds, Sudoku and crossword puzzles, trivia games or even a game of checkers. Reading is also a great way to engage the mind. Whether it’s a novel, a magazine or the newspaper, the mind stimulating activity of reading is thought to help build up your cognitive reserves.
Socialization is an additional facet of importance when it comes to improving and maintaining cognition. Consistent positive social interactions can help keep older adults stimulated, mentally sharp and intellectually engaged. In addition to spending time with friends and family, you can seek alternate methods of social engagement such as volunteering, attending church or participating in events at your local senior center.
Remember, exercising the mind is just as important as exercising the body. While we cannot prevent the gradual shrinkage of our brains, which acts as a catalyst for many of the cognitive deficits older adults experience, we can work to keep the mind as high functioning as possible. So, if you haven’t been challenging your mind as much as you should, take this as your call to action. Buy word puzzle books. Read the newspaper. Have coffee with a friend. Start flexing that mind muscle.
Michelle Craig is administrator with Green House Living for Sheridan.