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Activities that Slow Cognitive Loss

Activities That Slow Cognitive Loss

by Grace M. Burke

Mental Activity

  • Keeping the brain active seems to increase its vitality and may build its reserves of brain cells and connections and may actually generate new brain cells
  • Higher levels of education appear to play a role in protecting against dementia, possibly because brain cells and their connections are stronger, symptoms may still appear but later in a person's life
  • Stay curious and involved - commit to lifelong learning
  • Read, write, work crossword or other puzzles
  • Attend lectures, plays, movies
  • Enroll in courses at your local adult education center, community college or other community group
  • Play games like checkers, dominoes, Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy
  • Garden, cook, work mechanically
  • Perform memory exercises
  • Challenging the brain with new activities wakes up new areas
  • Try things you don't already do - an accountant might study a new language
  • Challenging creates new pathways that appear to become alternate routes when neurons die off in middle and old age.

Social Activity

  • Engage in social interactions
  • Stay socially engaged in activities that stimulate the mind and body
  • Stay active in the workplace
  • Volunteer in community groups and causes
  • Join clubs (bridge, art, square dancing) and other social groups
  • Travel, experience new places, make an effort to learn about the place and it's culture

Physical Activity

  • Exercise helps maintain good blood flow to the brain and encourages new brain cell growth
  • It significantly reduces the risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes which are risk factors for the development of dementia
  • It doesn't have to be strenuous or require a major time commitment
  • It is most effective when done regularly, and in combination with a brain-healthy diet, mental activity and social interaction
  • Walking bicycling gardening, yoga and other activities for about 30 minutes daily get the body moving and the heart pumping and has been found to reduce brain cell loss
  • Leisure activities that combine physical, mental and social activity are the most likely to prevent dementia
  • Sports cultural activities, emotional support and close personal relationships together appear to slow the onset of dementia

Remember:

  • To get maximum benefit from brain stimulating activities, do things you normally do not do
    • Take a class in a subject you feel you are not that good at, but are interested in
    • Paint if you do not consider yourself to be the artsy type
    • Write if you do NOT do that as part of your daily routine
    • Learn a foreign language
    • Do crossword puzzles, word searches, and Sudokus that are difficult, but not impossible

Relax and Sleep Well

  • During deep sleep, the brain repairs itself and boosts the immune system
  • During rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the brain consolidates information learned during the previous day
  • Poor sleep or sleep loss leads to fatigue, immune suppression, memory, concentration and mood disorders. Optimal learning cannot take place against a background of sleep debt
  • Seek help for sleep apnea as it increases the risk of stroke

Grace M. Burke is Program Manager for LIFE's Adult Day Services, and an accomplished speaker on dementia and Alzheimer's disease. She may be contacted at (918) 664-9000, ext. 233 or gburke@LIFEseniorservices.org.