Learning keeps your mind sharp

When you learn things, read or pursue a hobby, you’re not just having fun, you’re protecting your brain from the effects of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. “The research found that people who participated in mentally stimulating activities both early and late in life had a slower rate of decline in memory compared to those who did not,” according to the American Academy of Neurology.

The rate of mental decline in people participating in the research was reduced by 32 percent in mentally active seniors, while the rate of decline was 48 percent higher in those with infrequent activity.

Rush University researcher Robert Wilson told the National Institutes of Health that the idea that the brain creates a “work-around” to avoid showing signs of Alzheimer’s or other dementia is called the “cognitive reserve hypothesis.” The brain is always adapting to challenges, he said. When we stay mentally active, our brain structure is stronger and better able to adapt when aging occurs.

The Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center recommends that you flex your brain and have a purpose to stave off dementia symptoms, as well as increasing physical activity and improving your diet.

Here are some suggestions.

Flex your brain

Choose activities that challenge you mentally, such as

  • Working a crossword puzzle or jumble
  • Playing chess or some other strategic game, including cards
  • Reading
  • Learning a new language
  • Pursuing a hobby
  • Playing a musical instrument or sing
  • Inquiring about special learning opportunities for seniors in your area.

Have a purpose

Research also shows that people who have a sense of purpose in life are less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease. This usually involves brain flexing, as well.

  • Combine mental and social activity, such as joining a book club or participating in some other type of group such as a theater or singing group
  • Attend lectures, presentations and activities. Many museums and senior centers offer special sessions for older adults. Take advantage of the opportunities right in your Presbyterian Manors of Mid-America community.
  • Volunteer
  • Set goals and follow through
  • Take an art class

You could set a goal of increasing your brain’s “work-around” power, and follow through by trying one of the suggestions listed here. Then try another, then another!