According to the Alzheimer's Association, costs associated with the 5.3 million people in America who have that disease total roughly $172 billion annually. Furthermore, Alzheimer's is the most common cause of dementia.
While there isn't a lot we can do about the role that genetics plays, we can make lifestyle choices to help ward off such diseases. And much what we can do to improve our long-term memory and brain function comes down to exercising our brain.
"Most people don't give it much thought, but we really do need to exercise our brain to keep it healthy," says Sharron Guillett, director of the nursing program at Stratford University. "Fortunately, exercising the brain is much easier than you may think. It really comes down to making sure that your brain is regularly stimulated."
You are never too young - or too old - to begin exercising your brain. Doing so yields many benefits, including improved brain function, as well as helping to avoid other diseases that may be related.
Consider these five ways to exercise your brain:
- Start walking. Research suggests that you can improve your brain function by 15 percent if you walk regularly for six months. Starting and maintaining a regular walking routine will benefit your brain, and the rest of your body, as well.
- Do opposites. You can help stimulate your brain and keep your mind fresh by doing things with the opposite hand from what you normally use. For example, if you usually brush your teeth with your right hand, try using your left. While it may feel strange at first, it will create new challenges for your brain.
- Play games. Exercising your brain can be fun and rewarding! Playing games helps to keep your brain stimulated. Whether you are playing computer games, board games, or the latest Wii bowling game, you will be exercising your mind. (Lots of online games and mental exercises)
- Get mental. Doing things that challenge your thinking is a good way to exercise your brain. Make reading a regular habit, take a computer course, or sign up for a class covering a topic new to you. Whether it's Tai Chai, Yoga, Country Line Dancing, or Italian Cooking, you will be doing good things for your brain.
- Travel. When you travel, you take in new images, sites, sounds and smells, and you get out of your regular routine. This is a great way to stimulate the brain and get those synapses firing.
"Many of these mind exercises are things we already do without realizing the benefits involved," adds Guillett. "But it is important to make sure we do a variety of these brain exercises on a regular basis. It's what will help keep us thinking, remembering and feeling good for years to come."
Posted June 21, 2010