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​Seniors Matter(s): Brain power!

March 22, 2023

I love the brain challenges that I have set up on my computer. I can go from crossword puzzles, chess, bridge, Sudoku, and so forth.

I look forward to spending a little bit of time each day exercising my brain. I am not kidding!

I work out for my body, lifestyle weight, diet, etc., every day, but being in retirement, I believe I do not exercise my brain as I did when I was in a leadership position, making decisions, planning/talking/organizing, etc.

Therefore, I am firm in my commitment to daily get the grey matter (no, not my hair) working on unique challenges.

I have learned that your brain stops growing and starts aging in your late 20s. Your brain is still developing even after society calls you an adult, but it doesn't last long once you hit your late 20s.

You start to experience a very slow cognitive decline after you turn 40, and your brain gets five-per-cent smaller with each passing decade. It shrinks even faster once you hit 70. Ouch.

Scientists aren't sure why, but brain cells die off with age. In the memory battle of the sexes, women win. (Ouch again!) Men score lower on memory tests than women at every age and especially after 40.

Studies show that people with a healthy heart score higher on mental tests, so habits that help your heart also help your brain.

Of course, good sleep and a healthy, balanced diet and exercise are all brain boosters.

Quiz time: Which of the following memories do you think will fade first?
  1. Your first day of school
  2. The capital of France
  3. How to ride a bike

Even as your mind matures, the kind of memory that helps to remember fact, such as the capital of a country, is called semantic memory.

Procedural memory is your muscle memory, the kind that was responsible for the phrase, “like riding a bike.”

Events that happened to you, are episodic memories and are the ones that tend to go first. Therefore, you forget your first day of school rather than forget how to ride a bike or forget the capital of France.

Just like good physical health is a boon for your brain, so your is good mental health and emotional health. Therefore, challenging your brain with new skills keeps it firing on all cylinders for longer.

A group of good friends is not only good company, but it could also help you live longer and remember more.

Blood flow to your brain naturally slows down as you age, and it affects your frontal cortex first. That's where your words are stored. Regular exercise can help your heart pumping and bonus blood can keep your mind humming.

Interestingly, 30 minutes after hearing the same story, a 70-year-old typically remembers 75 per cent of the context as compared to what an 18-year-old remembers.

While your language skills stay with you through your life; in fact, vocabulary keeps getting bigger and more complex in your middle- and short-term memory.

Medically, it has been proven that simple vitamins, often missing in a senior’s diet, can help. For example, Vitamin B can help with your memory, while Vitamin B, folic acid, B6 and B12, all help to lower levels of certain proteins that bring on dementia.

You can get all three naturally from bread, fortified cereal and leafy vegetables.

Your brain deserves as much exercise as the rest of your body, so get those games and challenges going.

Now, where was I?

Stay safe! ‘Till next time!

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