June 27th, 2019

To Your Health: Spend time each day exercising your brain

By Medicine Hat News on March 11, 2019.

Now that all the rush to get physically fit after Christmas has worn off a little, or you have settled into a routine, it is time to think about brain health.

What we do to keep our brain healthy can have long-term benefits and actually set you up to perhaps ward off the cognitive decline most of us fear as we age.

We are not just stuck with the brain we were born with. We have some control in building brain health reserves that will help to cope with disease and even brain injury. It could even positively influence your recovery after a stroke.

Scientists now believe that we can impact our brain just like we improve our physical strength by exercising our muscles.

Not being someone who likes to go to a gym for a workout, I think a brain workout is something we incorporate into our everyday life and enjoy it. Experiences that are stimulating can even result in the growth of brain cells.

It is never too late to start and it is as easy as incorporating one new thing into your life every day.

Socializing is big. Make a point of smiling at people, engage in conversation, go for a walk or out for coffee and take someone with you. If you really don’t have someone to take with you start going on your own but stop to make conversation with other walkers. There is always a greeting and then you can comment on their dog or the weather as an opener. Be friendly and often people will respond. If there is another person on their own in the coffee shop make conversation. Studies say even 10 minutes of that interaction will improve your mental performance.

If you are retired try volunteering for a few hours every week for the benefits of the social interaction. Plan to mix with people you feel will have similar interests.

It is also good to switch things up a bit. If you normally don’t read a section of the paper because that has typically not interested you, try reading that section and become informed with a new interest. If you typically tune in to one radio station because you favour its programming, try a different one on one day of the week. If you typically avoid reading science fiction make a point of reading one book a year in this genre. It will all stimulate your thought processes.

Laughter is the best medicine so tune in to comedy shows and have a good laugh.

Learn a new skill. Thought you had no musical talent? Sign up for some lessons and be patient with yourself as you learn.

Were you always fascinated by those who had carpentry skills? Treat yourself to some lessons.

Eat a healthy diet of home prepared food with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Try to limit stress in your life. Getting organized can make a big difference. Something as simple as having a box in your home where your car keys, phone and mail go can avoid the stress of forgetting where you have put something and the anguish of trying to find it in a hurry.

Don’t write letters and emails that will stir up unpleasant memories, or that you will find stressful after 8 p.m. If you do it will be more difficult to get that out of your subconscious mind when you go to sleep.

Here’s to improving our brain health and here’s To Your Health.

To Your Health is a weekly column by Gillian Slade, health reporter for the News, bringing you news on health issues and research from around the world. You can reach her at gslade@medicinehatnews.com or 403-528-8635.

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