Grow a Brain Forest to Outsmart Alzheimer's

While the disease can’t be prevented, symptoms of Alzheimer’s can be avoided by staying active and eating healthy.

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Just Sit There
“Americans have a hard time sitting quietly,” says Dr. Nussbaum. We fill every moment — too many moments, actually — with passive activities such as watching television and playing video games. He says that taking 30 minutes a day to just sit (with the TV off!) and think, pray or meditate ultimately helps boosts brain power. People who meditate strengthen the left prefrontal cortex of the brain, the part that is responsible for memory.

Home in on a Hobby
Learn French, Spanish, Russian or even sign language, pick up knitting, master the classical guitar or write your memoirs (you don’t even have to let anyone read them).  The benefit comes from “engaging in something novel,” says Dr. Nussbaum. If you don’t want to give up the hobbies that you love, and that you’re already good at, just look for ways to make your favorite pastimes more challenging. If you repeat the same activity, you’re operating on autopilot and not building new pathways (or planting new trees, to use Dr. Nussbaum’s brain forest metaphor) in your brain. Here, some ideas to spur your creativity:

  • Is knitting a favorite activity? Try to learn a new stitch every once in a while, and don't just knit the same scarf for every person on your Christmas list. Challenge yourself with a sweater!
  • Like to build birdhouses? Sketch out different designs.
  • Crazy for quilting? Experiment with a variety of patterns.
  • Love jigsaw puzzles? Try doing an occasional puzzle facedown, which forces you to fit the pieces together using just the shapes.

—by Dana Sullivan 

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