What to expect from our brain?

As we grow older we should expect to do the things we have always done without thinking too much – for example, driving a car, cooking a meal, carrying on a conversation, following the story line in a novel, or following basic instructions for established hobbies such as needlework or carpentry.

If we’ve always had trouble remembering names, why would we expect this capacityto improve with age? Or worry when we forget a name if that has always been our pattern?

If we’ve always misplaced keys, why would we worry when keys are misplaced or lost when we grow older?

We also know that our brains get confused because of too many distractions. If we forget why we’ve entered a room to fetch something, while we’re trying to answer a question asked by a spouse — or if we feel flustered and anxious when trying to use new software with conversations going on around us — or when we are trying to hurry to an appointment — then our brains may not function very well.

Keeping the Brain Fit – a User’s Guide

There are strategies to keep our brains functioning optimally. These simple stepswill encourage the brain to keep building neural pathways.

  1. Stay curious and involved with life. Socialize, read, try new activities – keep learning.
  2. Slow down. Be mindful. Consider meditation to improve focus.
  3. Keep moving your body. A healthy body makes for a healthy brain – blood flow to the brain increases with exercise.
  4. Give your brain time to rest. The brain needs down time for processing and healing itself.
  5. Avoid distraction. Multi-tasking confuses the brain.
  6. Get enough sleep. There is evidence that the brain actively processes information during sleep.
  7. Keep challenging your brain. A large repertoire of intellectual challenges such as playing a musical instrument or learning another language will provide brain stimulation and allow your brain to make new connections.

Many people fear retirement because of worries that dementia may set in once the daily challenge of work is gone. By paying attention to brain health each of us can enhance capacity for planning, decision-making, memory, judgment and problem solving – all skills that affect quality of life and happiness in retirement.

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