Alzheimer’s disease is on the rise. One in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Health Awareness month, dedicated to increasing public knowledge of this often-misunderstood disease and raising funding for Alzheimer’s research. The more we understand about the early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s, the more support we can provide to the 47 million Americans who live with the disease.
Although researchers are still working to understand what causes Alzheimer’s, they do believe that following a brain-healthy lifestyle can help delay or prevent onset.
Your brain is an organ that behaves like a muscle. Like any other muscle in your body, it needs proper nutrition and regular exercise to stay strong and limber. In addition to following a healthy diet and getting regular physical exercise, you can promote your brain health by giving your brain its own daily workout.
Practice these five exercises on a regular basis to keep your brain healthy.
5 Daily Brain Exercises for Brain Health
- Test your recall – We make lists every day: grocery lists, to do lists, lists of errands, etc. When you set down to make a new list, memorize it. An hour later, test yourself to see how many items you can recall. Increase the challenge by creating more and more difficult lists as you become better at memorizing.
- Learn a new hobby – Don’t let anyone tell you that old dogs can’t learn new tricks. Our brains want to learn new things! They’re hungry for novelty and abhor boredom. Take up a new instrument or start learning a new language. Learning new things and expanding your vocabulary (in any language) have both been found to reduce risk of cognitive decline.
- Experiment in the kitchen – Cooking stimulates a variety of senses—smell, touch, sight, and taste—all of which involve different parts of the brain. Experimenting with new recipes and new cuisines will also engage your brain in the challenge and novelty of learning a new skill. Plus, you get to switch up your meal plan with some tasty new meals!
- Challenge your taste buds – Many of us eat mindlessly, in front of the TV or while conversing with a dining companion. Challenge yourself to really pay attention to your food, trying to identify each of the individual flavors ingredients in your meal. This is also a great activity to do with wine. Notes of chocolate? A smoky finish? You be the culinary detective!
- Attend a new exercise class – Exercise can be just as stimulating for the mind as for the body. The mental challenge of participating in a new activity such as yoga, pickleball, or water aerobics will keep your brain engaged throughout class as you observe what the instructor is doing and try to learn the moves. Exercises that combine physical and mental demands have been found to have an even greater impact on cognitive functioning than physical exercise alone.
We may not know exactly what causes Alzheimer’s, but taking steps to keep your brain and body healthy will only benefit you as you age. Living a brain-healthy lifestyle can even help to slow the progress of the disease if and when it does set in. Incorporate these brain exercises into your daily routine to make promoting brain health a regular habit.
Learn more about how you get involved with Alzheimer’s and Brain Health Awareness Month on the Alzheimer’s Association website.