All your brain wants is attention. Feed it, challenge it, care for it. One of the key things to do? Constantly stretch your mind with crosswords, chess, Scrabble or learning to speak Chinese. Here are our favorite ways to keep your brain operating at maximum power.
Teach a Lesson
Teaching can save your brain. You’re far more likely to retain info if you have to explain it to someone else. The degree to which you can effectively explain info indicates how well you’ve learned it. The lesson: Take advantage of mentoring opportunities. This can be instructing your favorite hobby at the local college, or inviting neighborhood teens over to teach them to make a soufflé or change a tire. By teaching the next generation, you’ll power up your own generator.
Be a Lifelong Learner
In a study of nuns and Alzeheimer’s disease, the nuns who fared best were better educated. Those nuns who developed Alzeheimer’s were less physically and mentally active outside their jobs in their youth. Although the neurological tangles may be genetic, your ability to resist the effects is not.
When you increase learning, you decrease the risk of developing memory-related problems. You have to push yourself to learn tasks that may not come naturally, through a new hobby, game or vocation. Performing tough tasks reinforces the neural connections that are important to preserve memory. Your mind has a way of rising to the occasion. Challenge it, and it will reward you.
Stop and Think About Thinking
Like breathing, thinking is designed to be an automatic process. Thinking is an involuntary reflex. While you can often control what you think about, thinking is as natural as an ocean—stuff just floats and goes where it wants.
Try this when you’re doing a simple activity like waking up: Instead of rolling out of bed, splashing water on your face and dreading your morning meeting, think of your surroundings. Listen for birds, notice the drips of water streaming down your leg as you shower, savor the sips of OJ, think of every tooth you’re brushing. It doesn’t take more time; it just helps train your brain. Thinking about the thought process is really about awareness and is one of the tools you can use to strengthen your neural connections.
See If Your Genes Fit
If you have a family history of memory-related problems, and are comfortable with genetic testing, you can have your Apo E4 protein level checked. That’ll help you determine whether you’re more or less predisposed to clearing that gunky beta-amyloid from your neural wiring. No matter what your result, alcohol intake and obesity can increase expression of the gene, while exercise decreases the amount of Apo E4 in the blood.
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