We all know the value of physical exercise, but your brain regularly needs a good workout as well.
It’s particularly vital if you’re approaching middle age, when the brain starts to lose cells and its connections start to fail. You may start to more often forget a birthdate or where you left your keys. But if you consistently train your brain, you can reduce the risk of developing dementia -- a progressive, severe decline in mental function -- when you’re older.
Almost 280,000 Australians and 43,000 New Zealanders have dementia. And by the time you’re 85, you have a 1 in 4 chance of having the condition.
The key to mental fitness, according to Alzheimer’s Australia, is doing new things that are mentally challenging. Try different activities that make you think or learn new skills, like these:
1. Read a book or magazine upside down for three minutes. New connections form between brain cells when your brain’s stimulated.
2.Cook from a new recipe. Your brain will appreciate the challenge.
3. Play brain-training games on your computer. Log on to FreeBrainAgeGames.com. Games have been shown to improve general brain function, including memory.
4. Research. Each time you read about or hear of topics and people of interest, look them up on the Internet. Even if it’s the love life of a celebrity, at least you’re learning something!
5. Learn to dance. Exercise carries oxygen to the brain, and complex dances strengthen brain cell connections.
6. Get cultured. Visiting the theatre, art gallery or museum -- particularly if you don’t usually go -- will take your brain out of its comfort zone.
7. Enrol in a new hobby course. Whether it’s pottery or painting, learning completely new things reactivates rusty cells.
One word of caution: It’s important to do activities you enjoy. Forcing yourself to do stuff that doesn’t interest you may stress you out and be harmful in the long run. So choose wisely what you do with your time.
By Fleur Michell for Oral Care and Health Daily