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 the preventing 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, Huffington Post reports.
“A lot of things that should be recommend 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.
1. Keep Learning: A lot of research has found that education provides some protection from waning mental function. The theory is that people with more education have a greater cognitive reserve, basically something of an extra buffer against the effects of decline. But it’s a bit of a double-edged sword. “People who are more highly educated tend to get Alzheimer’s at a later age but once they get it, they’re getting it at a higher load of the disease and appear to decline at a faster rate,” says Verghese.
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.
3. Ignore Negativity: Stereotype threat occurs when a person is in a situation where they are anxious that they may conform to a negative stereotype aimed at his or her social group. Stereotype threat stemming from beliefs about age and memory loss can hinder the performance of middle-ages and older people on memory tests. However, positive stereotypes, or success on previous memory tasks, can help combat this negativity. Oddly enough, stereotype threat has also been shown to improve performance when tasks are focused on losses rather than gains.
4. Use All Of Your Senses: Sensory memory consists of iconic (visual), echoic (auditory) and haptic (touch-related) memory and is usually very short-term. Yet studies – often stemming from marketing research – have shown that involving multiple senses, like the picture of a flower with a floral scent, enhances people’s ability to memorise what their senses are taking in.
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