Make sure you exercise your brain

Sometimes, it seems I am pretty forgetful. I can never remember our anniversary or my children’s birth dates. And when asked my age, I usually have to figure from the year I was born.
I sometimes forget meetings and I’m notoriously bad about keeping appointments with my hairdresser.
Occasionally, I forget to deliver telephone messages to family members.
Having confessed my forgetfulness, I defy anyone to accuse me of having “senior moments.” Many of my worst memory slips happened decades ago.
In 1955, one year after our marriage, my husband refused to tell me one more time which day in March was his birthday and which day in November was our anniversary.
We were in graduate school at the time, so I went to the dean of students’ office to find out.
And when it comes to forgetting meetings or appointments, my most embarrassing moment was in the summer of 1972.
As president of the PTA, I had planned an executive meeting in my home. All five people came as scheduled.
But unfortunately, I had forgotten the meeting, so I greeted them in my housecoat. Because it had been a hot August night, the children had chosen to sleep on the living room floor near the air conditioner—and their beds hadn’t been picked up.
There was no coffee made. And worst of all, I had not planned the agenda.
Now, whenever I hear friends joking about senior moments, I remind myself of these long-ago experiences of forgetfulness.
The truth is that most of us this side of 60 are as sharp as ever.
Dr. Paul Takahashi from the Mayo Clinic, who is an expert on cognitive decline, says, “We all lose a little bit of memory over time. But years of experience often make up for the little bit of mental sharpness we’ve lost.”
Takahashi recommends several steps to sharpen your brain.
1. Exercise your mind
Play Scrabble or chess, do crossword puzzles, learn a foreign language. Get involved in something that keeps your brain busy every day.
2. Exercise your body
Exercising improves blood flow to the brain. If you exercise, says Takahashi, “you’ll be more awake, more alert, and quicker on the mental draw.”
3. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and be sure to drink eight glasses of water every day
Dehydration can leave you feeling tired, making it hard to concentrate.
4. Develop a system of reminders
Write things down and make lists. Put your keys in the same spot every time you come home. Consciously remember where you parked the car at the grocery store.
5. Have a positive attitude
“Happiness makes you more alert—and when you’re alert, your senses are more open to receiving information,” says Takahashi.
6. Make lots of friends
Researchers have found that maintaining close ties with family and friends seems to improve older people’s mental performance.
So there you have it—a simple to-do list for improving your brain.
Most important of all, don’t let the ageists convince you that your memory is failing. Always remember there were times when you were in your 30s and 40s that you poured orange juice on your cereal and locked your keys in the car.
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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