Whether your days are less mentally demanding now that you’re retired, or you’re so busy you don’t even have time for sudoku, everyone can benefit from these simple brain-boosting tips.
We spoke with Iftekhar Ahmed, MD, a neurologist from Research Medical Center in Kansas City, Missouri, to learn easy, science-backed ways to keep your mind razor sharp.
Ask about cholesterol checks at your next doctor’s appointment.
Keeping your cholesterol within a healthy range—not too low and not too high—can help stave off dementia.
“You need some cholesterol to protect the integrity of your brain cells,” says Dr. Ahmed. “If your total cholesterol drops too low, your brain cell membranes could break down.”
“On the other hand, if your cholesterol goes too high, the small blood vessels in your brain can get closed off, blocking the oxygen supply to your cells,” he continues. “This can damage brain and nerve cells, putting you at risk for memory loss and neurological problems.”
Here are the safe ranges for cholesterol:
- HDL, or “good cholesterol,” above 60
- LDL, or “bad cholesterol,” between 60 to 100
- Total cholesterol between 140 to 200
It’s important to get routine checks if you take cholesterol-lowering drugs like statins, or if you’re at risk for heart disease. Work with your healthcare provider (HCP) to determine how often you should get tested.
Go for a 30-minute walk.
“Walking has several health benefits,” says Ahmed. “It can improve your agility, lower your blood pressure and heart rate, increase your circulation and protect against artery damage. These effects benefit your memory indirectly by helping your heart.”
But walking also supports your mind directly by boosting neurochemicals like dopamine and epinephrine, he continues. Your brain needs these chemicals to function and recall memories.
Get more from your walks by inviting friends or taking along a furry pal. Strong social connections may lower your risk of depression and anxiety, boost your confidence and increase your capacity to learn new information.
Read more; join a book club.
“With cognitive function, if you don’t use it, you can lose it,” says Ahmed. Continuing education at every age may protect against dementia and even slow its effects.
One group of researchers found that older adults who read regularly, visited libraries and kept up letter writing were less likely to experience brain changes related to Alzheimer’s. Adults who performed these activities most often had about 14 percent fewer plaques and tangles—the protein clumps that build up in the brain as Alzheimer’s progresses—than those who read less often.
“Read on a daily basis; try to interpret and write down comments about what you’ve read,” recommends Ahmed. “It’s important to stay involved as much as you can, especially in retirement. Combining a social group with reading or exercising can be very beneficial.”
Another winning combination for brain health? Play a video game that challenges you mentally and physically at the same time, like Wii Fitness. Also try these 6 simple brain games to keep your mind sharp.
By Rose Hayes