Geriatrician, Hospitalist, Patient Advocate, Healthcare Educator

Keep Your Mind Sharp

Photo by Júnior Ferreira

How many times have you forgotten your key, wallet, or cell phone? It can be frustrating but is a normal part of life. Our brains are multitasking every second of the day for us to function the way we do. With age though, there are changes that occur. Blood flow to the brain decreases, certain parts of the brain shrink, and there is decreased nerve transmission.

Sometimes, it becomes difficult to find words and recall names or have issues with multitasking. Does that mean someone has dementia? Absolutely NOT! It not necessary that everyone who is not as sharp as they used to be has dementia. Dementia is something that is diagnosed after careful considerations of alternative diagnosis and detailed evaluation.

Much research has been done to find ways to keep our minds “sharp” as we age, here are some habits to foster:

Eat Healthy

  • Antioxidant rich foods (berries, red grapes, carrots, spinach, dark chocolate, green tea, coffee, red wine)
  • Eggs (contain brain nutrients- B6, B12, folate, and choline)
  • Salmon (omega-3 fatty acids)
  • Nuts
  • Mediterranean diet (Annals of Neurology)

Staying Active

  • Games (Sudoku, chess, board games, watching brain stimulating shows/game shows)
  • Read and write
  • Learning something new (cooking, knitting, photography, gardening, other hobbies) (American Academy of Neurology)
  • Meditation
  • Exercise (working out prevents brain inflammation, increases blood supply to the brain, and also increases a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is needed for growing and keeping neurons) (Science Daily)
  • Socialize (socialization engages multiple brain areas) (Journals of Gerontology)

Self Care

  • Sleep adequately (sleep problems lead to issues with memory and concentration)
  • Stress relief (listen/play music)
  • Manage underlying conditions well (keep blood sugars and blood pressure under control, take your medications)

A little can go a long way… try to work on keeping your mind healthy. Remember what we don’t use, we lose. We have to use and challenge our brains everyday!