Focus on your brain health in ’09

Last Saturday night, I ended the day in my favourite way–playing a few games of Free Cell solitaire and two rubbers of bridge with the computer.
But something was different.
For the first time, I didn’t feel so guilty because I had been reading about the benefits of computer games for the aging brain. And after all, young or old, we are all aging, including our brains.
All my life I’ve loved games. I have no idea how many hours I have played solitaire, first with real cards and later with the computer. I love playing pinochle, Rook, bridge, Clue, Monopoly, and dominoes.
We usually play Mah Jongg on New Year’s Eve, and we even played Scrabble on our honeymoon in the beautiful Adirondack mountains. We still have our astronomical scores written in the lid of the 1950s’ box.
But most of all, every evening I smile and feel cozy inside as I have fun playing cards with the computer. At the same time, I usually have some mixed feeling.
Adding to my guilt is the fact that my husband decided to stop playing spider solitaire four years ago. He went “cold turkey” because he felt he was wasting too much time. By refocusing his time, he has written two books that many groups are discussing.
I asked myself, should I be wasting so much time?
So I looked up what the Internet had to say about computer games and the aging brain.
Well, it turns out brain researchers think I’m not wasting time at all. They say I’m protecting my brain from deteriorating–making my brain more alert.
They say there are four things that can protect the aging brain–eating lots of fresh, colourful fruits and vegetables, getting regular aerobic exercise, being involved in social activities, and performing challenging mental tasks.
As important as the other three things are, right now I’m thinking of the importance of mental workouts. I get my recreational mental workout with computer games.
Some experts suggest that you play computer games like Free Cell as fast as you can, without regard to score, thus speeding up your brain. Or try playing your grandchildren’s fast-paced video games.
But you may prefer working the crossword puzzle in your daily newspaper, or solving Sudoku problems or playing checkers with a partner. Or how about playing bridge with four people or dominoes with seven or eight.
Better yet, why not read a thought-provoking book or attend a series of lectures? Even yoga is said to stimulate the aging brain.
Do anything you enjoy to improve your thinking skills.
We all know how important exercise is for improving health at any age. It’s good when young people exercise, but for older people exercise is a must!
The same is true of brain exercise. A 30-year-old brain is at its prime, but a 70-year-old brain can fall into disrepair.
That shouldn’t happen. After all, with your life experiences, you should be much smarter than a 30-year-old. But it takes work!
So, during 2009, take on new challenges and keep your mind engaged. After all, what’s more important than a healthy brain?
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist.
Write her at thisside60@aol.com or visit www.visit-snider.com

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