Although most consider it a sign of old age, we actually begin experiencing cognitive decline in our thirties.
Cognitive decline lowers your brain’s ability to fight neurological damage. It also impacts memory and makes it more difficult to perform mental tasks. And, though the problem begins while we’re young, all of these issues increase with age.
Although these changes are impossible to avoid altogether, you can lessen their impact and strengthen your brain. Healthy lifestyle choices and regularly performing brain-boosting activities are the best ways to improve brain health.
Move Your Body to Improve Your Mind
You already know that it’s great for your body, but exercise may also be one of the best things you can do to improve your mind. Regular exercise increases blood supply to the part of the brain connected to thinking. It also helps your body develop nerve cells and keeps those synapses firing (those are the connections between your brain cells).
You can also choose to learn a new sport, particularly one that uses both body and mind. Great choices include golf, tennis, and yoga. As always, check with your doctor before making significant changes to diet and exercise.
Feed Your Brain
In addition to exercise, researchers determined that following a healthy diet was an important part of brain health. Study participants who followed healthy lifestyle habits had a 60 percent reduced risk of developing dementia and other cognitive impairments.
The same diet that’s great for your heart also loves your mind. A healthy diet includes:
- 5 to 7 servings of fruits and vegetables daily
- Lean protein
- Complex carbs and whole grains instead of “simple” carbs like white bread
- Reducing processed foods (or cutting them entirely)
- Opting for grilled or baked instead of deep-fried
For more great heart-healthy cooking tips, read our post, Cooking for Your Heart.
Brain Building Games and Activities
Now for the fun stuff! Your brain loves to learn new things and, the more you learn, the better it gets. Think of the following activities as a workout for your mind. Your brain is like any other muscle; the more you use it, the stronger it becomes. Of course, that also means that the same activities won’t offer the same level of stimulation forever. So, change it up once in a while and keep giving your brain new things to try.
Solve Crossword Puzzles
Getting out your pencil and working a crossword puzzle helps delay onset dementia, improve memory, and strengthen cognitive function. The secret, though, is to pay attention to how long the puzzles take you to solve. Once you reach the point where you can solve a crossword in a few minutes, it’s time to increase the difficulty level.
You can also work sudoku puzzles, word searches, anagrams, and more.
Put Together a Jigsaw Puzzle
Jigsaw puzzles do a great job strengthening your short-term memory. That’s because your brain is working hard to create a visual picture of those jumbled pieces. The more difficult the puzzle, the harder your brain has to work to complete it. If puzzles with too many pieces present a challenge due to dexterity issues (those pieces can be awfully small), try a smaller puzzle with the pieces turned over so all you see is the blank side.
Take a Cooking Class
Cooking activates different parts of your brain and involves four of your senses (sight, smell, taste, and touch), making it a great brain activity. Plus, you’re learning a new skill, something your brain loves to do. Working out recipes and preparing ingredients also engages cognitive functions such as math and hand-eye coordination.
Express Your Creativity
Many craft activities and hobbies help stimulate your mind, particularly those that require fine motor skills. Ideas include crochet, drawing, knitting, painting, and woodworking.
Online Brain Games
There are literally thousands of online games designed to improve your mental fitness. You can play on your computer or download an app to your smartphone. Crossword, sudoku, find the difference games, riddles, and more are all waiting for you online.
Final Thoughts on Memory Boosting Activities
Even though cognitive decline is an inevitable part of aging, you can protect your gray matter with healthy lifestyle changes. Give your brain a boost by continuing to learn, playing word games, testing your memory, and more.