Certain changes occur in us as we age. Our hair turns grey or thins out, we experience aches and pains that might not have been present in younger years, and we often find ourselves wondering what mission we were on when we went from the living room to the kitchen.
As a person gets older, changes occur in all parts of the body, including the brain. According to the National Institute on Aging, some of these modifications include:
- Certain parts of the brain shrink, especially those important to learning and other complex mental activities.
- In certain regions of the brain, communication between neurons (nerve cells) can be reduced.
- Blood flow to the brain may also decrease.
- Inflammation, which occurs when the body responds to an injury or disease, may increase.
While older brains might not be as efficient in terms of memory or learning something new, there is growing evidence that the brain remains “plastic” – able to adapt to new challenges and tasks – as people age.
Older people don’t have to accept the indications that their brain might be slowing down. There are plenty of exercises that can be done on a daily basis to keep your grey matter in shape, according to Everyday Health.
Test your memory: Write out a grocery list of items you need to pick up at the store and memorize it. Wait an hour and try to recall items on the list. Be sure to make the list challenging; milk, bread and eggs won’t do the trick.
Draw a map: Think the last town you visited and try to draw a map of that town’s streets. Even if you can only recall the main road you were on and a few side streets, it’s a start. Keep map-making in mind when you travel to a city you’re unfamiliar with and try to recreate it in map form when you get home.
Taste buds test: The next time you go to a restaurant, pay attention to the food you’re eating. Try to identify the different spices and ingredients by taste and listing them on a note pad.
Keep learning: Take guitar lessons. Enroll in a cooking class. Learn a new language. All of these complex activities will stimulate the brain and sharpen your memory at the same time.
Other activities to keep our minds sharp offered by the Mayo Clinic are:
- Include physical activity in your daily routine. Physical activity increases blood flow to your whole body. Studies indicate that regular exercise results in better brain function, depression and reduces stress.
- Eat a healthy diet. If your heart is healthy, your brain will be as well. Focus on fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Choose low-fat protein sources, such as fish, lean meat and skinless poultry.
- Be social. Interaction with other people helps ward off depression and stress, which can contribute to memory loss. Try volunteering at an animal shelter or offer to spend time with children at a local school. Watch the paper and local magazines for opportunities to be with other people.
There are plenty of ways to keep your mind active and fully functioning. Find out what’s available in your area at:
- Bay County Department of Aging at baycounty-mi.gov/aging/.
- Saginaw County Commission on Aging at saginawcounty.com/departments/boards___commissions/commission_on_aging/index.php.
- Lapeer County Senior Coalition is at com/index.html.
- Shiawassee Council on Aging at shiawasseecoa.org/.
- Region 7 Agency on Aging for Bay, Clare, Gladwin, Gratiot, Huron, Isabella, Midland, Saginaw, Sanilac and Tuscola counties at https://region7aaa.org/