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New Study Confirms Activity Prevents Cognitive Decline
A new study has found that what you do today will affect your mind as you age. Find out more about what activities can prevent memory loss below!
Losing your memory and cognitive function as you age is a worry for many adults. No one wants to feel disconnected from their life or loved ones. Luckily, there are steps you can take to keep your brain sharp at any age.
The best time to start protecting your memory is today. Don’t wait until you see signs of memory loss to take action. The following steps have been scientifically proven to help prevent memory loss and mild cognitive decline.
During the first two or three decades of your life, you spend a good portion of the time acquiring new knowledge. However, by the time you reach your 30s or 40s, you spend most of your time completing tasks you already know. This cuts down on the amount of conscious engagement that you complete each day, which means that the brain is no longer challenged.
When the brain and memory are not challenged, they starts to deteriorate. A lack of brain-boosting nutrients can also contribute to faster mental decline. However, if you continue to use your mind to acquire knowledge and give your brain the right nutrients, you can prevent some of this form of mental decline.
A new study published in the journal Neurology in 2015 examined the mental health of 256 adults over the age of 85. The researchers found that the study participants who were involved with social, craft, computer, or artistic activities had a reduced risk for developing mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Many of the study participants had engaged in these outlets for many years.
The study authors concluded, “This implies that preventive strategies for MCI may need to begin in midlife and should persist throughout late life.”
According to the Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services, adults who engage in activities that challenge the brain are less likely to have memory problems as they age. The Journal stated that occupations such as college professors, doctors, musicians, architects, and pilots are mentally challenging and more likely to prevent cognitive decline than occupations that require less brain work.
Leisure activities that are mentally challenging also protect the memory, such as bridge, crossword puzzles, chess, and real-time-strategy video games. Even activities like quilting and knitting can also protect mild cognitive decline.
A study from 2014 published in Psychological Science found that any form of “cognitively demanding” activity was beneficial for the brain. The activities cited in the study included quilting and photography. The study researchers found that the biggest benefit was achieved when the study participants engaged in the activity for at least 16 hours a week.
Find out practical steps you can implement today to prevent cognitive decline later in life below.
Today You can help protect your brain health by filling your day with activities that benefit the brain, eating a healthy diet, and ensuring you get enough sleep and exercise. Although it is difficult sometimes to work all of these activities into your day-to-day life, doing so will greatly benefit your mental health.
Mentally-challenging hobbies, such as painting, knitting, building a car, woodworking, gardening, learning a new language, or anything else that teaches you a new skill will benefit your brain. Hobbies that include simple math or language-building skills provide the biggest mental benefit. For best results, try to engage in your hobby for about 16 hours a week (which is about 2 hours a day).
Mentally challenging games offer big results in brain health. Crossword puzzles, mind benders, riddles, math problems, and pattern matching games can all boost your mental health. Look for books with MENSA-style puzzles that provide different challenges. According to one study, the biggest benefit from brain-boosting games occurs in the first 5 or 6 minutes. Doing the same game over and over is not as beneficial as switching from task to task every few minutes.
According to Psychology Today, you can improve your focus in as little as three days.
Information retention is something that many people lose as they age. Children and young people are tested on their knowledge while in school, which helps keep the mind sharp. You can do the same thing as an adult. Find knowledge quizzes and IQ tests online or in books and take one once or twice a week to check your information retention rate. You can also take classes at a local or online college.
A study conducted by the University of Iowa in 2014 found that stress is linked with short-term memory loss. According to the study, the stress hormone cortisol corrodes the brain and wears down the synapses that processes memory. Over time, this leads to memory loss. Relaxing and getting rid of stress will help you prevent memory loss as you age. Each day, try to set aside time to consciously relax and eliminate stress.
Exercise is one of the best ways to restore cognitive function. Exercise not only prevents memory loss, but it can also heal some brain deterioration. According to a study from 2013 published in Scientific Reports, daily exercise increases grey matter in the brain, produces cognitive gains, and fights dementia. The study examined 61 adults between the ages of 18 and 14. 75 percent of study participants exercises at least 3 times a week for about 45 to 120 minutes at a time.
The study researchers found that the number of sessions was not as important as the minutes spent in exercise. The longer total minutes a person exercised, the better their cognitive function. Exercise is usually only considered as a benefit for maintaining a healthy weight, but it is equally as beneficial for mental health.
Just like exercise and stress relief can benefit your mental health, sleep can as well. Sleep helps you sort memories and can even help you improve your skills while you sleep. Sleeping for even just six hours a day can help you think clearer the next day. The brain grows and processes information during sleep, which is why infants and young children require more sleep than adults.
One study conducted by the University of California in 2010 found that when adults took a short mid-day nap, it was able to dramatically increase their brain power for the rest of the day. In the study, participants were divided into two groups. Both groups were given a difficult task at noon. At 2, half of the participants took a 90 minute nap. At 6, both groups were given another difficult task. The non-napping group performed worse on the second task, while the napping group performed better on the task.
Even if you can’t nap during the day, ensuring you get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night will greatly benefit your memory and help prevent cognitive decline.
In addition to eating a healthy diet filled with vegetables, fruit, healthy fats, and protein; there are several supplements that have been linked to improvements in memory. Web MD states that the following supplements are effective against cognitive decline:
Ginkgo Biloba: Ginkgo biloba is used in Europe to prevent a form of dementia caused by reduced blood flow. Ginkgo improves blood flow to the brain and helps relieve some symptoms of early dementia.
Omega-3 fats: These fats have been linked to healthier brain function and sharper memory. Individuals who eat a lot of omega-3 fats were shown to have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease in several studies.
Acetyl-L-Carnitine: This is an amino acid that helps heal memory. Studies have shown that supplementing with L-carnitine slows the progression of fast-developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Huperzine A: This moss has been shown in some studies to be as effective as traditional Alzheimer's medications for treating memory loss and cognitive decline.
Ginseng: This herb relieves fatigue and has been shown in some studies to improve cognitive function and delay memory problems.
Choline: Choline, found in high concentrations in eggs, has been linked with a sharper memory. A study from 2011 conducted by the Boston University School of Medicine found that individuals with a higher amount of choline in their diets had better memory and cognitive function than individuals with less choline in the diet.
Aside from eating well and taking brain-boosting supplements, avoid junk food and processed foods in all forms. These foods have a negative effect on brain health and cognitive function.
Although there are dozens, if not hundreds, of factors affecting your chances of memory loss as you age, there is a clear link between memory and lifestyle. Individuals who are healthier overall are much more likely to have healthy brains as they age. Active, brain-boosting activities, eating the right foods and supplements, avoiding stress, and exercising regularly all work together to protect your mental health. Don’t wait until you see signs of memory loss to work for your memory. Start today to prevent the onset of memory problems that can prevent you from enjoying your later years.
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