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Exercising Our Minds

Published by Chapster on 2003/12/31 (4037 reads)
Recent research shows that keeping our minds active may make a meaningful difference in staving off Alzheimer's Disease. In this article we talk a little bit about the research and then make some suggestions as to ways that we may use "brain exercise" to our advantage. This article is the script of an interview that Barb gave to Dr. James Griffin, Station Director of KEOM 88.5FM, Mesquite Schools Radio.

Q: So what are we talking about today, Barb?

A: Today's topic is about exercising our minds as well as our bodies to help maintain over-all health.

Q: What exactly do you mean by mental exercise and how is it important?

A: It's true that we have plenty of evidence indicating that regular exercise can help our cardiovascular system, our lungs, and our immune system. Many studies indicate that regular simple exercise, such as walking, can help our emotional well-being and decrease symptoms related to depression. However, some newer research also suggests that keeping our brains active by participating in mental exercise, such as reading, writing or math, can not only increase our mental efficiency but may even play a role in decreasing our chances of developing Alzheimer's Disease as we age.<

Q: What type of mental exercise is important and how effective is it in lowering our chances of developing Alzheimer's Disease?

A: The most recent study published in the February 13th issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that of 800 participants who were 65 years of age or older, those who remained very active mentally had a 47% lower risk of developing Alzheimer's Disease. Although the researchers are unsure of exactly how mental activity helps our brains, they think that maybe actively using our brains reduces the tissue degeneration often associated with Alzheimer's Disease. The types of mental exercises in which they participated included reading, watching television, playing games such as checkers, chess, or crossword puzzles, going to museums and - something that may be very encouraging for KEOM fans - listening to the radio! Researchers relate these findings to the use it or lose it theory, wherein, the more active we are mentally and physically, the better our chances are for maintaining our memory and thinking capacities.

Likewise, the more that we become isolated from others and from interacting with our environment, that is USING our minds, the greater the chances are that we will slowly decrease our ability to remember and think.

Q: Are there other ways to increase our brain power?

A: You bet! Consider putting your mental calculator to work and set the mechanical one aside every now and then. The more you practice your math skills the better. You might also want to try out a new hobby or learn about the internet and e-mail messaging! E-mailing is a great way to instantly keep in touch and involved in the lives of family and friends who live in another city or state, while increasing our mental powers through reading and writing. Many of the area senior centers offer classes on learning how to use a computer and the internet. Give them a call and see what's coming up in the next session . . . you might want to check out some of the other classes and programs offered at these area centers.

Maybe you can finally learn the fine art of oil or water painting - you know, that art class that you never had time for before! Socializing, conversation, and laughter while interacting with others in these classes not only help our mental stimulation but help decrease our levels of stress! Consider learning to play a musical instrument or stay busy cleaning out the garden or preparing the soil for Spring planting, or going for a relaxing walk with a loved one or friend.

Another activity that can help our mental acuity is learning a new language. There's plenty of software available that you can use on your computer to help learn Spanish, French, Italian or other languages. Then, after you've got the language down, consider rewarding yourself with a trip to that country! Remember, keeping active is the key idea here!

Lastly, be aware of the types of food you eat and the amount of sleep that you get. All of these factors are important in not only keeping active and alert mentally and physically while possibly reducing our chances of developing Alzheimer's Disease, but also help us to just feel better about ourselves and the world around us.

Tags: dementia   alzheimer's   reflection   thought   mind  

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