Whether it's becoming a Sudoku champion or remembering the name of someone you just met, everyone probably wishes they could muster up a little extra brain power. There are no quick fixes when it comes to improving (or preventing the decline of) cognitive functions like memory, info processing, or critical thinking, but there are some very basic steps you can take to keep your brain as healthy as possible.
"A lot of things that should be recommended for reducing dementia are actually just common sense and work for general health too," says Dr. Joe Verghese, professor of neurology and medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. "The challenge is getting people to do it." Eating right, exercising, and staying mentally active top the list of brain-health boosters, but they aren't the only options.
2. Do a Crossword
Even if you're not looking to jump back into school, you can still use other forms of mental activity to give your mind a workout. "Education gives you a boost earlier in life – it builds up your cognitive muscle – but in older life, if you want to maintain that advantage, you have to continue taking part in mentally stimulating activities," says Verghese. He conducted a study of 488 adults over the age of 75 and found that doing cognitive activities – like crossword puzzles, reading, or playing music – actually delayed the onset of memory decline among people who eventually developed dementia. The results showed that for every cognitively active day, dementia was delayed by about two months.
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