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Seven Ways to Keep Your Mind Sharp

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When Arthur Pollakoff, 83, of Glenview, Illinois, retired as a salesman six years ago, he made a pledge. “I promised myself that I would not sit down, dry up, and blow away,” says Pollakoff, a grandfather of four who plays tennis regularly and presides over a local men’s club, among other activities.

Experts say Pollakoff has the right idea. Keeping your mind sharp may go a long way toward warding off the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, but maintaining your brain means more than challenging yourself intellectually. Exercise, healthy eating, and socializing are critical as well. The following brain-healthy activities can get you started.

# 1 Take a walk
Regular physical activity is closely linked to cognitive health. What is good for the heart is good for the brain, says Debra Katt-Lloyd, a presenter and trainer for the Alzheimer’s Association’s Maintain Your Brain program. Lowering your risk for heart disease and stroke also can reduce your chances of developing dementia. But the best news is that “exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous or a major time commitment,” Katt-Lloyd says. Regular thirty-minute sessions of biking, gardening, yoga, or walking can be effective as time at the gym.

# 2 Meet a friend for coffee
It’s simple enough—and could have long- lasting benefits. Staying socially connected is believed to play a major role in brain health, Katt-Lloyd says. There appear to be two reasons. First, it keeps the mind working, because conversation strengthens the connections between brain cells. Second, socializing may help stimulate mood-boosting brain chemicals and decrease depression, which is a key risk factor for dementia.

# 3 Learn something new
Keeping your mind active is important. But you don’t have to spend your day solving Sudoku puzzles to see results. Real brain fitness is about “learning something new that requires focused concentration,” says Mary Futrell, Director of Lifelong Learning for the North Shore Senior Center in Northfield, Ill. It could be mastering salsa, studying American history, or learning how to paint, as long as you haven’t done it before.

# 4 Cook with your kids

Add a Comment5 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

Oops I screwed that up. Here are those brain fitness tips I meant to link in my last comment

September 22, 2009 - 11:07pm
EmpowHER Guest

Nice article, it's important for people to be aware of how important - and how easy - it is to keep their minds sharp. I'm glad that the notion of mental fitness is becoming more mainstream!

Here are some more interesting to consider...

September 22, 2009 - 11:05pm
EmpowHER Guest

Really appreciate this article! There is so much we can do. I have written an article on exercise that might be of interest to you:


To your health! Julie Webster

September 22, 2009 - 1:34pm
EmpowHER Guest

Please take a look at the Feldenkrais Method for more ways to heighten learning and support neuroplasticity. www.feldenkrais.com.
Neuroplasticity was featured at the Feldenkrais Expo at Cedar Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles in 2007.

September 22, 2009 - 7:21am
EmpowHER Guest

"Companies like Posit Science and CogniFit create these computer-based programs as part of what has become an $80 million annual industry in this country alone. The programs build in complexity for each user over repeated workouts."
I just want to say that both of these companies have great products and it is advisable to visit their websites:

September 22, 2009 - 1:56am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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