Linsey Harrison, MD
You may notice as you get older that you don’t remember things as well as you used to. You might misplace your keys or have trouble remembering someone’s name. Memory lapses happen to people of all ages, but we tend to get more upset by them as we get older because we fear it may be a sign of dementia.
Fortunately, we can take some steps to help keep our minds sharp.
Keep your heart strong. Studies show that better cardiovascular health is associated with better cognitive function, so make sure you are keeping your cholesterol and blood sugar in healthy ranges, getting regular physical exercise, and following a healthy diet. People who exercise regularly and people who follow a Mediterranean style diet or a DASH diet may have a lower risk of developing dementia.
Keep learning, and challenge yourself mentally. This stimulates brain cells and helps to activate processes that keep brain cells healthy. Pursue a new hobby or learn a new skill. Play chess or bridge. Do puzzles. Take a class. Learn a new language or play a musical instrument.
Spend time with friends. People who regularly engage in social interaction are also less likely to develop dementia. One study found that leisure activities that combine physical, mental, and social activity are the most likely to prevent dementia. Your brain, like your muscles, will weaken if you don’t use it!
While nobody can halt the aging process entirely, there are things we can do to maintain good brain health. Following a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and keeping yourself mentally stimulated will help preserve your cognitive function as you age. Stay sharp!