It’s never too late, or early, to start considering how you can maintain and improve your brain health. Here are just a few of the ways you can keep your mind engaged in learning and growing, which research suggests can help to prevent or lessen cognitive decline later in life. And more than that, they’re just fun!
Learn a new language
No matter how many you already know, picking up another can build new neural connections that combine to weave a safety net of sorts. One research team from Concordia University in Canada theorized the brain activity involved with speaking more than one language helps people to build a “cognitive reserve,” which allows them to access other parts of the brain to compensate for the effects of Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.
Such tasks as doing laundry or pulling weeds may be tedious, but they may also keep your brain and body active enough to engage with the world and prevent decline. A 2018 study reported that seniors with no or mild cognitive impairment who were physically active had more gray matter, the tissue that processes information for the brain.
Play with numbers
Doing crossword puzzles has long been touted as protective of brain function, but number games such as sudoku may also have a significant impact. In an online study of nearly 20,000 adults aged 50 and older published in 2019 by the University of Exeter, significant correlations were found between those who said they frequently did number puzzles and improved performance on cognitive tests.
Use and create mnemonic devices
This refers to any phrase, rhyme, acronym, image or other memory aid used to help you remember a piece of information (One common example is the acronym HOMES to remember the names of the Great Lakes — Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior). Use the ones you already know and invent new ones to fill in the gaps. Doing this builds your brain along with aiding memory.