Tips on how to train your brain.
Many of us have walked into a room and forgotten why we were there. Forgetfulness can be the result of distractions, lack of focus, drowsiness or age. When you experience forgetfulness, you may find it harder to recall events in your life, or where you left your keys. But there are ways to keep your brain as healthy and safe as possible beginning at an early age.
Dr. Michael Weintraub, a Neurologist for White Plains Hospital Medical & Wellness in Armonk, offers tips on how to keep your brain active and healthy.
Exercise. Maintain a healthy exercise plan. “Exercise is just as good for the brain as it is for the body,” says Dr. Weintraub. “A weekly goal of 150 minutes of aerobic activity such as walking, biking, or swimming can reduce the risk of developing heart disease, stroke, or diabetes. Exercise also lowers blood pressure, improves cholesterol levels, and can reduce mental stress.”
Learn a New Skill. Learning a new skill works multiple areas of the brain. Gardening, woodworking, learning to cook, mastering a new language or an instrument can improve cognitive skills and give you a sense of accomplishment.
Sleep. Statistics published by the American Sleep Association indicate that more than 70% of Americans claim they don’t get enough sleep at least once a month. Dr. Weintraub adds, “Studies show sleep deprivation hinders learning, impairs reasoning, and slows down reaction time. A full night’s sleep can strengthen your heart and immune system, improve your concentration and help you reduce ghrelin, the hormone that controls appetite.”
Diet. Good nutrition is tied to your mind as well as your body. For example, people that eat a Mediterranean-style diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, and olive oil are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Concussions. Concussions are the most common form of mild brain injury. It is estimated that as many as 3.8 million sports-related concussions occur in the U.S. per year alone. However, as many as 50% of concussions may go unreported. Symptoms such as headaches and light sensitivity can cause difficulty concentrating or memory loss. Long-term effects indicate a possible connection to degenerative conditions like chronic traumatic encephalopathy and Alzheimer’s disease. For those who play sports, wearing the recommended protective equipment can make a difference.
Test Yourself. Crossword puzzles and games like chess can all improve your brain's speed and ability to process information. Remembering the lyrics to your favorite songs or poems will test your memory and bring back pleasant memories. Drawing painting and other crafts not only tests your mental skills but can improve your dexterity as well.
Medications. “Medications can improve the lives of people who suffer from chronic conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer, mental illness, and chronic pain,” notes Dr. Weintraub. “However, taking too many prescription medications can be risky. Take only your essential medications and talk to your doctor if you suspect that a new medication is taking the edge off your memory.”
Ultimately, the key is to brain fitness is to find activities that are new, challenging, and enjoyable.