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Tips to Keep Your Mind in Top Shape

Armen Hareyan's picture

Mental Processing

Just when you're old enough to be considered wise about the ways of the world, some days it's awfully hard to find your glasses.

As you age, some brain cells may deteriorate or function less efficiently, potentially affecting your speed of mental processing and ability to retrieve information rapidly. Yet many factors besides aging affect mental ability. Depression, stress, sleep disorders, poor health and certain medications are among the most common.

The November issue of Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource covers healthy choices to help keep your mind and body in top form:

  • Exercise your mind. An active brain produces new connections between nerve cells that allow cells to communicate with one another. To challenge your mind, try taking a class or engaging in a new hobby. Other activities that could help include reading, volunteering and staying connected with friends.

  • Stay physically active. Exercise increases blood flow to all parts of your body, including your brain and might promote cell growth there. To reap the most benefits, exercise at least 30 minutes a day most days of the week.

  • Eat fruits and vegetables. Oranges, berries, broccoli, carrots and tomatoes contain antioxidants - substances that may help protect your brain cells from damage over time.

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  • Limit alcohol. People who drink heavily are at higher risk of developing memory problems and dementia. For women and anyone 65 or older, it's best to drink moderately or not at all - no more than one drink a day.

  • Manage stress. When you're stressed, your brain releases hormones that can damage your brain with long-term exposure.

  • Quit smoking. Smokers may have twice the risk of getting Alzheimer's disease as do people who've never smoked. If you quit now, you may still reduce your risk of memory loss.

  • Get regular preventive health checks. Monitor your blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels.

  • Treat sleep disorders. Insomnia, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome and other sleep disorders can impair memory and your quality of life.

If you have memory problems, you may fear that dementia is setting in. But conditions such as Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia involve much more than occasional forgetfulness.