Brain Training for Seniors

“Use it or lose it” commonly refers to the importance of exercising your body and staying fit. Exercising your brain is just as important. Your brain needs a regular workout, especially as you age. After the age of 65, your risk of developing dementia doubles approximately every five years.

Dementia is not a disease. It’s a symptom resulting from damaged brain cells that affect your memory, personality, and decision-making abilities. Brain damage can occur from a head injury, stroke, or disease, such as Alzheimer’s disease (the no. 1 form of dementia). Other diseases, such as uncontrolled type 2 diabetes, can cause another form of dementia known as vascular dementia (the 2nd most common form of the condition). Vascular dementia is caused by poor blood supply to the brain. It also affects memory, personality, and decision-making abilities.

While some forms of dementia cannot be cured and the brain damage cannot be reversed, research shows that keeping your brain active with activity, a healthy diet, and physical exercise can make a difference. Just like physical activity, the earlier you start brain-training activity, the better the benefits.

Path to improved health

If you are healthy and younger than 65, stimulating your brain with activities and games can keep your mind sharp later in life (unless you develop a dementia-related disease or have a stroke or a head injury). If you currently have some form of dementia, brain games and “active mind” activity can still help.

Also look for activities that stretch your short-term memory, listening, attention, language, logic, reaction time, hand-eye coordination, alphabetizing, and visual and special abilities. Consider adding brain-training activities that apply to your everyday life. For example:

  • Write a to-do list and then memorize it.
  • Listen to a new song and write down some of the lyrics.
  • Draw a map from your home to the library.

Other ways to challenge your brain include:

  • Changing the way you do something. If you are right-handed and stir your coffee with that hand, trying stirring with your left hand.
  • Read a how-to book.
  • Learn a new language.
  • Try a new craft or hobby.
  • Learn to play a musical instrument.
  • Take a class at your local college.

Things to consider

Brain training and lifestyle changes may be overwhelming. Don’t try to change everything at once. Start slow by choosing one brain game. If you can add more, that’s even better. If you find yourself getting bored with the same game, choose another one to stay active. Don’t give up. Change up your daily living routine, too. For example, if you always brush your teeth and then comb your hair, try reversing your routine. 

Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that brain training and lifestyle changes will prevent all forms of dementia. And it will not cure certain forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease. However, you can improve dementia that is tied directly to disease (such as uncontrolled type 2 diabetes) by managing the disease with medicine and healthy living.

Source: Editorial Staff at FamilyDoctor.org