In the United States, Alzheimer’s disease affects one in 10 people aged 65 and older. Despite how common it is, scientists have yet to discover what causes the development and spread of plaques and damaged connections among brain cells, leading to symptoms such as memory loss, confusion and trouble recognizing family and friends.
Fortunately, research has discovered that maintaining an active brain can “increase its vitality and may build its reserves of brain cells and connections,” says the Alzheimer’s Association. The source also indicates that activities, such as these six, may possibly even generate new brain cells, lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive disorders.
1. Read, Write and Work Puzzles
Stimulating the brain doesn’t have to involve complex activities. Simple things such as reading, writing and working puzzles can help to maintain memory and thinking skills, says the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation.
Additionally, a study conducted at the University of California, Berkeley’s Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute concluded that older adults who engaged in these activities throughout their lives “had fewer deposits of beta-amyloid, the hallmark protein of Alzheimer’s.”
2. Learn Something New
Lifelong learning is essential for wellness and cognitive function, as it engages the attention, typically involves multiple senses, and disrupts routine activities. According to the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation, these are the three criteria that mental exercises must meet in order to reduce the chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Taking adult education courses, learning a second language or how to play a musical instrument are all excellent examples of such brain-boosting activities. By allowing you to start at an approachable level and increase the challenge over time, these activities are especially beneficial for disrupting the brain’s habits and routines.
3. Take a Cooking Class
In addition to discovering new preparation techniques, taking a cooking class is an excellent way to learn about other cultures. It also introduces unfamiliar foods and spices and stimulates the body’s sense of smell, touch, sight and taste, engaging various areas of the brain.
When eating, EverydayHealth.com suggests trying to identify each of the ingredients in the dish, associating the flavor with the name of each food, including herbs and spices. Such an activity will help with association and recall.
4. Play Games
Games that challenge memory and mental agility can be a great way to maintain the neural connections of the brain, and you need not look further than your device’s app store for several excellent options.
Lumosity, for instance, can help to “strengthen your ability to pay attention to the right things—that is, the things that help you solve the task at hand—while learning to ignore things that don’t help.” Another app, called Eidetic, helps you learn and remember words and facts using a technique called “spaced repetition,” whereby they deploy tests over a period of time to help the brain retain information in long-term memory.
5. Test Recall
Since memory loss is often one of the first signs that someone may be suffering from Alzheimer’s, one of the best ways to prevent it is to regularly exercise the brain’s ability to recall information.
EverydayHealth.com recommends making a list, whether it is of groceries to buy or things that need to get done around the house, and later trying to remember what items were listed on it. The source also suggests trying to draw a map from memory after returning home from a new place.
According to the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation, regular physical activity can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by an astounding 50 percent! The source says that exercising for up to 150 minutes per week (approximately 20 minutes per day) is the “magic number for maintaining cognitive fitness with age and preventing Alzheimer’s.”
For maximum benefit, the foundation recommends a combination of cardio exercises, such as brisk walking, swimming or playing tennis, and strength training with weights, resistance machines and isometrics. Not only will these activities benefit your brain, they’ll also help to maintain heart health and muscle strength, preventing related illnesses.