Sharper Minds

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Many of us notice that we’re not as mentally sharp as we used to be. Here are a few recent research findings on how you can make lifestyle decisions that improve your acuity.

The more you have tried to learn, the better you’ll be at mental sit-ups as you age. The challenge of tackling a new skill or new information is likely to be more beneficial than putting together the same jigsaw puzzle over and over again.

Stress takes a toll on the brain by washing harmful chemicals over the hippocampus and other brain areas involved in memory. Living a balanced lifestyle and pursuing relaxing activities such as yoga, socializing, and crafting may delay memory impairment by reducing stress.

Growing evidence suggests a caffeine habit may protect the brain. Two to four perk-me-ups a day may stave off normal cognitive decline and decrease Alzheimer’s by 30-60%. It’s unclear whether the benefits come from caffeine or antioxidants found in coffee and tea, but it’ worth imbibing.

When we rest and dream, memories are sifted through, some discarded, others consolidated and saved. When we don’t sleep, proteins build up on synapses, possibly making it hard to think and learn new things. Chronically sleeping poorly is linked to cognitive decline.

Scientists are starting to think that regular aerobic exercise may be the single most important thing you can do for the long-term health of your brain. While the heart and lungs respond loudly to a sprint on the treadmill, the brain is quietly getting fitter with each step, too. For mental fitness, aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity every other day.


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