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Happiness in Retirement – A User’s Guide to Brain Fitness

Saturday, August 24th, 2013   10:47 am |  Category:   Health   |   Add Comment  
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Have you walked into another room to get something and forgot what you went looking for?


Have you stopped in mid-sentence to search for the word you wanted to use?


Have you begun an introduction only to forget a name?


Do you find yourself searching for misplaced keys or a misplaced cell phone?


It’s common to laugh about such occurrences and dismiss them as ‘senior moments’.


But such events also cause worry that brain function may be deteriorating.


Memory lapses happen to everyone. Are they early signs of dementia? Are they signs of a brain grown sluggish? Are brain exercises indicated?


What we know about brain fitness


It’s important to know what we should expect from our brain as we grow older.


Brains function differently at age 65 than at age 35. Unfortunately memory degrades with age.


But that doesn’t mean that a diagnosis of dementia is imminent. It simply means that the brain processes information differently as we grow older.


Our brain adapts. It learns through many modalities and it files information in many places.


We don’t hear as well at age 65 as at age 35; we don’t see as well – and we don’t remember things at age 65 in the same way we did at age 35.


Our brain has changed as a result of learning and life experience – this fact is substantiated by research in neuroplasticity.


What is Neuroplasticity?


Wikipedia states that neuroplasticity ‘refers to changes in the neural pathways of the brain’. Neural pathways are the connections within the brain that keep information organized and flowing.


Neuroplasticity or brain plasticity provides evidence that the brain continually regenerates new cells and forms new pathways.


The neurons in the brain are interconnected in a complex web that allows crossreferencing and filing of information. The brain uses this neural ‘network’ to retrieve information for memory, cognition, problem solving and decision-making.


It’s good news is that connections within the brain are continually formed and reformed throughout our lives. This doesn’t stop as we grow older.


Any type of intellectual stimulation or new learning generates new brain cells and new connections. Perhaps the adage ‘use it or lose it’ also applies to brain functioning.


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