Contributed by Team Member: Amy Shoultz, Ph.D.
Now, where did I put my keys? What did I come in here for? If this sounds like you, then join the club. Forgetfulness is common as we age and as our lives become more complex. More than one-third of women in the recent Melbourne Women’s Midlife Health Project replied “yes” when asked if they had trouble recalling events that had happened during the preceding week. And, guys you’re not off the hook. Reports of difficulty remembering with age come from men, too. As all of us go through the motions of everyday life—weight loss or gain, illness or injury, stress or sleepless nights—our bodies make continuous adjustments. Many of us probably, um, forget that our brains are changing along the way as well.
On the bright side, exciting advances in neuroscience reveal that our brains can actually change for the better as we age. Natural bodily aging does not have to affect brain health & longevity. Personal trainers, coaches, and longevity experts alike exhort, “Use it, or lose it”, to stress the importance of building strong muscles for healthy aging. This mantra applies to brain health as well and keeping your brain in shape is critical for a lifetime of whole-body fitness.
Your brain is only as young or as old as you THINK. Blaming memory loss on your age is no longer an excuse and there are many proven ways to keep your brain fit for life. Next time you’re searching for your sunglasses, consider giving some of these brain-strengthening practices a whirl.
What activities give my brain a workout for longevity?
- Challenge yourself mentally—finally decipher what calculus is all about; take that screenwriting class you keep putting off; or, simply try memorizing names or new phone numbers before entering them in your cell phone.
- Challenge yourself physically—sign-up for Samba lessons; check out that kickboxing class at your local gym; or, try walking instead of driving for short trips. Remember to check out the scenery while you’re at it. Turn down your iPod and take in some natural sights and sounds.
- Challenge yourself to use more than one neuro-motor skill at a time—learning to play a musical instrument not only requires dexterity and motor skills but also involves many areas of the brain at once. Take on online guitar class or explore your symphonic side through violin. Playing music is a potent de-stressor and will keep your brain on its toes.
- Challenge yourself to an “Ambidextrous Day” once a week–use your opposite hand to brush your teeth, dry your hair, or shave under your arms. This exercise helps build new neuro-pathways and gets your brain cells talking to cells that they don’t typically engage.
- Challenge your sensory self—the more senses that are involved in an activity at once, the more areas of the brain that get a workout.
What really simple activities improve Brain Health & Longevity?
- Read the newspaper or a magazine out loud
- Light a scented candle while studying to improve your ability to recall what you learned
- Take a different route to or from work than usual
- Try remembering series of numbers, subways stops, street signs…see how high you get
- Work crossword puzzles or Sudoku.
- Try knitting! It’s not just for antiquarians anymore.
Oh, and by the way…your sunglasses? They’re on top of your head, Clueless.
Medical translation by Amy E. Shoultz, PhD. in concert with Maryann Prewitt, MD, FACOG