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Want to boost your brain activity? 5 things you can do

Want to boost your brain activity? 5 things you can do

 


Dose25:48How can we keep our brains sharp as we age?

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Our brain health can change as we age.

To some, that might seem like a worry about memory loss, but experts say cognitive health is about more than forgetting someone's name or where you put your phone.

It also includes concentration, judgment, intuition and learning.

As we age, we lose neurons, but we also create new ones as we gain experience and knowledge, says neurologist Dr Stephen Lawrence.

“This is neuroplasticity at work,” Lawries told CBC host Dr. Brian Goldman. Dose“You're challenging what you know today and what you can do tomorrow.”

Neuroplasticity It's how the brain changes its structure over time.

There are many things you can do to keep your brain sharp, such as learning new things, being social, moving your body, sleeping well, and meditating.

How does learning something new help my brain?

Dr Veena Dwivedi, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brock University who studies the brain and language, said it's normal for people to pay less attention to certain things as they get older because they've done the same things thousands of times.

For example, she suggests taking a different route home from the store, so your brain has to work a little harder.

“Make it innovative to grab attention,” Dwivedi says.

A woman with shoulder-length hair and a buttoned-up shirt is sitting on a sofa, looking down at a newspaper on the coffee table in front of her, a crossword puzzle open on the page and her pen marking it.
Word games like crosswords target specific areas of the brain, but they are even more effective when done with friends or family. (Submitted by Anna Shechtman)

To help your brain, it's important to try learning something unfamiliar and challenging, says Manuel Montero Odasso, PhD, professor of medicine and director of the Walking and the Brain Lab at Western University.

For example, they could learn a new language or a new instrument, he said.

“This kind of challenge initially stimulates more communication between neurons,” Montero-Odasso said.

But when starting a new activity, be careful not to set the bar too high, says Lawrence, who holds the Canada Distinguished Research Chair in Neuroplasticity at Université Laval.

“Sometimes you expect too much, too soon. Just enjoy the process,” he said.

Does doing Wordle every day keep your brain healthy?

You might think that regularly playing Wordle, crosswords, and other vocabulary puzzles could help stave off cognitive decline.

The evidence poorIt's a waste of time, according to a systematic review published in 2021. But that doesn't mean it's a waste of time.

Puzzles engage multiple parts of the brain, helping to improve attention, recognise patterns and stimulate vocabulary, according to Rowley.

He said crosswords test general knowledge and help in problem solving.

A group of people are square dancing in a hotel ballroom.
Studies have shown that social engagement and activity are associated with a lower risk of cognitive decline. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Montero-Odasso said word games don't improve memory, but certain types of games might help.

Experts recommend combining word games with other activities, such as playing with friends and family.

“Wordle is good, but if you sit alone [and] “If you don't talk to anyone, it's not going to do you much good,” Dwivedi said.

How do social connections affect cognitive health?

Experts say making social connections is key to brain health.

Research suggests Social engagement and activities Low risk Cognitive decline.

For example, you can create group chats and schedule meetings for your daily Wordle, Dwivedi says.

“If you use Wordle, you can use social networks. [connection]And then they go to their friends' houses and talk about it. It's a game changer.”

A man is sitting cross-legged in a forest clearing with his eyes closed and a small brown and white dog sitting next to him.
Lawrence has been practicing meditation since 2013, which he calls “brain exercise.” (Pasquale Charland)

She said any kind of social activity, such as volunteering at a food bank or joining an arts group, helps the brain.

What kind of physical activity is good for the brain?

We all know that exercise is good for your heart, but what about its benefits for your brain?

There is Well-known links while Cardiovascular Health and Brain Health” experts say.

Lawries recommends that patients do 20 minutes of aerobic exercise, or exercise that makes you sweat, three times a week.

“It really changes the neurochemistry of the brain,” he said.

in Research in 2023Montero-Odasso and his team showed that combining aerobic resistance exercise with cognitive training produced the best results for improving global cognitive performance in older adults with mild cognitive impairment.

“The brain is an oxygen-intensive organ,” says Dwivedi, and exercise increases both oxygen and blood flow to the brain.

“You want to keep your brain healthy and your body healthy.”

How much does sleep affect brain health?

We've all experienced that foggy feeling after a sleepless night.

clock / What Lack of Sleep Does to Your Brain:

New sleep study explores how the brain works on short sleep

Over time, lack of sleep can It can have a negative impact on brain health And puts us at risk Certain brain disorders, such as dementia.

In our brains Glymphatic Systemwhich It was first discovered in 2012is essential for cognitive health by helping the brain remove waste products, Dr. Rowleys said.

“This is a natural and efficient detoxification process that occurs during deep sleep,” he said.

If you're not sleeping well, it's important to find out why and get medical help to get better sleep, he added.

Is meditation good for your brain?

Lawrence has been meditating for over 10 years and prescribes meditation to his patients.

“It's a brain teaser,” says Lawreis.

He recently published a book about how meditation benefits the brain and said there are many ways to practice meditation.

“The key is to pay attention to what's going on in your head. You spend a lot of time in your head,” Lawrais said.

He recommends an eight-week program. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reductionwill be offered at several locations across Canada as well as virtually.

Lawries said the program has been shown to help people at risk of cognitive decline.

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