Want to keep your mind sharp? Dr Adeline Ng, Senior Consultant from the Department of Neurology at National Neuroscience Institute (NNI), shares simple activities you can incorporate into your daily life, which can help.
“There are many ways to hone mental sharpness to keep your brain healthy, no matter what age you are. This includes doing certain
brain exercises to help boost your memory, concentration, and focus to reduce your risk of developing
dementia and Alzheimer’s disease,” explains
Dr Adeline Ng, Senior Consultant from the
Department of Neurology at
National Neuroscience Institute (NNI), a member of the
Reading books and magazines is one way of keeping your mind engaged as you grow older. Although research hasn’t proven conclusively that reading prevents brain diseases like Alzheimer’s, studies show that seniors who read and solve math problems every day are better at maintaining their cognitive functioning.
In fact, the earlier you start, the better. A 2013 study conducted by Rush University Medical Center found that people who’ve engaged in mentally stimulating activities all their lives were less likely to develop the plaques, lesions, and tau-protein tangles found in the brains of people with dementia.
2. Do puzzles
Like any muscle, you’ll need to use your brain often or risk losing it. There are many ways to keep your brain in shape, such as doing crossword puzzles or Sudoku, reading, playing cards or putting together a jigsaw puzzle.
Consider it like cross-training for your brain, by incorporating different activities to increase the effectiveness. Don’t watch too much television, as it is a passive activity and does little to stimulate the brain.
3. Play chess
It may come as no surprise that top chess players have strong memory skills. After all, the game involves memorising combinations of moves and their potential outcomes.
In fact, researchers have found that the complex mental flexibility chess demands can help protect older people from dementia. They also found evidence that the game, which challenges memory, calculation, visual-spatial skills, and critical thinking abilities, helps reduce cognitive decline and may even postpone the effects of dementia.
4. Play Mahjong
Mahjong is a great game for keeping the mind sharp. It requires players to stay alert throughout the duration of the game, trying to interpret clues from other players while constructing a winning hand. Furthermore, as mahjong requires four players, it is also a social activity, with regular playing being linked to reduced
5. Play card games
Like chess, mahjong and puzzles, card games and board games are good mental stimuli and help promote brain health. The best card games are those that demand memory, strategy and attentiveness. Card games to consider playing are: Bridge (this game also involves at least four people so has a valuable social component), Go Fish, Gin Rummy, Poker, Black Jack and Solitaire.
Doing these activities are great, but don’t forget the basics…
6. Have a healthy diet
A healthy diet consists of eating low-fat, high-fibre foods, including fruits, vegetables and whole grains, while limiting the intake of salt, sugar and saturated fat. But some fat are important, particularly unsaturated fat found in oily fish (such as
sardines), nuts, seeds and avocados.
7. Exercise regularly
Thirty minutes of moderate intensity exercise daily, five times a week, is the recommended minimum. The activity has to be intense enough to raise your heart rate and get you a bit out of breath. You could walk, cycle, swim or join an exercise or dance group. Regular exercise makes your heart and blood circulatory system more efficient, helping to lower
cholesterol and blood pressure. It is also great for mental well-being.
8. Get sufficient sleep
It is important that you try to get seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep per night.
Sleep apnea is often a reason for interrupted sleep and is harmful to the brain and heart, so be sure to consult a doctor if you or a family member suspects that you could be suffering from it.
Check out other articles on dementia:
Dementia: What You Need to Know
Understanding Dementia Behaviours
Dementia and Depression: Is There a Link?
Dementia Caregiver Tips: Do's and Don'ts
Young Onset Dementia (YOD): Dementia That Affects the Young
Brain Diseases: Early Signs to Look Out For
4 Mind-Body Exercises for Brain Health