By: Kathryn Tymonko, Resident Services Coordinator
What’s the most important part of your body? That question might be answered differently at different times in your life. Certainly your brain is important, so how do you keep it healthy?
Brain health seems to be one of the hot topics in the scientific world and among the general public right now. Many of us as we age worry about our ability to think and to remember. In fact, if we’re honest, many of us fear loss of our mental abilities. So what can we do?
Well, it turns out that nutrition and exercise are as important to the brain as they are to the heart. But it doesn’t stop there. Often we have heard the “use it or lose it” adage. Certainly continuing to use our brain is important but it’s more than that.
There was a time when we thought that whatever brain cells you had as a child that was it, you were maxed out. Not so. Scientists now know that we can continue to grow new brain neurons and new brain synapses. True, that doesn’t happen as quickly for an 90 year old as an 9 year old, but it does happen.
So how does one grow new neurons and synapses? The answer lies in the variety of things that you do. It’s not a matter of doing the same things over and over, but doing a variety of things. The greater the variety, the greater the benefit. The most benefit comes from trying something totally new. So rather than doing a Sudoku every day, try writing a poem one day and listening to classical music another. Variety really is the spice of life. It appears that the one activity that produces the most benefit is learning a new language or returning to a language you knew as a student but haven’t used in years. Maybe it’s the concentration learning a language takes, but the benefits are worth the effort.
Do you brush your teeth once a month and expect it to be enough? The same thing is true of keeping your brain healthy – it’s a daily activity. In fact, brushing your teeth with the “wrong” hand is just the kind of thing that stimulates the brain. Of course, I suggest not doing it when you’re all dressed up pretty and ready to go – you just might be sloppier with the wrong hand. But it gives you a good reason to laugh.
So go for a walk and see how many different flowers you can spot and then find out their names in a new language. Your brain will be glad you did!