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Seniors: Keep your brain sharp with these tips

By incorporating healthy lifestyle habits into your routine, you can help keep your brain healthy.

It’s just as important to take care of your brain health as it is to take care of the rest of your body. Learn how these healthy lifestyle habits — including mental and physical exercise and eating a healthy diet — can help you keep your brain healthy.

Flex your brain muscles with memory-improving games

Part of senior health is working to keep your brain healthy, active and sharp. Just as you exercise your body to keep it strong, memory-improving games and activities can strengthen your brain.

“Challenging your mind every day is your best tool to keep your brain healthy,” says Dr. Gary Kemberling, family medicine physician at Geisinger 65 Forward.

Research suggests that brain-training activities can reduce your risk of dementia. The type of training the researchers studied is called “speed of processing,” where a person quickly identifies and remembers an object in front of them.

There’s evidence that keeping your mind sharp and taking good care of yourself can help keep your brain healthy, too. Some great memory-improving games and activities include:

  • Crafting
  • Word puzzles
  • Bingo
  • Jigsaw puzzles
  • Trivia
  • Chess and checkers
  • Reading
  • Card games

Another benefit of some of these activities? They’re great for doing with a close friend or family member. “A lot of seniors struggle with isolation, which can lead to depression,” says Dr. Kemberling. “Making time for trivia, bingo or card games with friends can help improve mental and brain health.”

Exercise can help improve brain health

Just like your physical fitness needs maintenance (think “use it or lose it”), you need to exercise your brain to help keep it sharp.

Exercise helps your brain in a few different ways. It increases your heart rate, which causes more blood and oxygen to reach the brain. It also causes the release of certain hormones that help brain cells grow and regenerate.

“If you’re looking to incorporate exercise into your routine, talk with your doctor,” says Dr. Kemberling. “They’ll help you determine which exercises are best for you, which can include low-impact exercises, and give you tips on how to get started safely.”

A healthy diet for a healthy brain

Eating a healthy diet is a large part of your overall health. From keeping your heart healthy to maintaining a healthy weight, a balanced diet is key.

Cut foods like sugary drinks, trans fats and highly processed foods from your diet. The best foods for your brain include:

  • Fish packed with omega-3s, like salmon, tuna and sardines
  • Dark chocolate, which is full of antioxidants
  • Whole grains, nuts and seeds, which are rich in vitamin E
  • Berries, which reduce inflammation and are full of antioxidants

Senior health and brain health

Beyond remembering someone’s name or where you left your keys, your brain keeps you happy. Seniors are often at risk of developing depression, but there is some evidence that working to keep your brain healthy can help seniors combat depression and even neurological disorders like dementia.

“Taking care of your mental health goes beyond your brain health,” says Dr. Kemberling. “Staying mentally and socially active as you age may help keep your brain healthy while improving your mental health.”

Consider taking adult education classes, reading a challenging book, joining group fitness classes or doing other things that expose your mind to new tasks. By adding new activities and making changes to your daily routine, you can help to keep your brain — and body — healthy.

Next steps:

Learn more about Geisinger 65 Forward
65 (or older) and need a new primary care physician? Here\’s what to look for.
Make an appointment with Gary Kemberling, DO


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