Keeping Your Mind Fit

5 ways to maintain and improve your memory and brain function as you age

One key to a good life is a healthy mind. Thankfully, a growing body of research shows that age-related mental decline and dementia are more preventable than once thought. It’s just as important to continually keep your mind active and perform activities that challenge your brain and allow you to keep learning.

Get adequate sleep.

The sleep hormone melatonin tends to decrease in the body as you get older, hurting quality and quantity of sleep. But deep sleep is critical for memory formation and retention. Adhering to a strict sleep schedule and making sure your bedroom is dark and distraction-free can make falling and staying asleep easier. Also avoid eating or drinking alcohol before bedtime, which can disrupt your quality of rest.

Learn a new skill.

Taking a class or teaching yourself a new skill that requires intense concentration — such as learning how to play a musical instrument, taking up digital photography or making quilts — has shown to improve memory function by strengthening connections between parts of the brain.1

Eat a heart-healthy diet.

Research has revealed more links between the heart and brain. Consuming foods known to lower bad cholesterol and keep blood pressure in check, such as avocados, leafy green vegetables, fish and nuts, may keep your brain healthy and help to improve memory.

Work out at least three times per week.

A study published in 2011 by University of Illinois researchers found that 45 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise three times per week increased the volume of parts of the brain responsible for memory, helping to reduce participants’ dementia risk.2

Perform daily mental exercises.

Like the body, the brain needs a regular workout. Experts recommend people regularly perform mentally challenging activities that cover a range of skills, including memory and language retention, reasoning and speed of information processing. You can find a host of these types of mind-testing games online by typing “mental exercises” or “brain exercises” into your favorite search engine. Even just doing the daily crossword or Sudoku puzzle may make a difference.

1.Park, Denise C. of the University of Texas at Dallas, et al., Psychological Science, “The Impact of Sustained Engagement on Cognitive Function in Older Adults,” Nov. 8, 2013. 2.Kramer, Arthur of the University of Illinois, et al., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, “Exercise training increases size of hippocampus and improves memory,” Jan. 30, 2011.
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Keeping you mind fit infographic