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Don’t Forget to Exercise Your Brain

Just like the rest of the body, your brain needs exercise and maintenance to protect its current and future health.

Hot Springs, Ark. – Just like the rest of the body, your brain needs exercise and maintenance to protect its current and future health.  In particular, your brain needs to be stimulated socially, mentally, physically, and through nutrition and sleep. 

Socializing with others can provide you with an opportunity for communication, critical thought, creativity, and emotional expression.  When you isolate yourself, you are at a greater risk for developing depression and even dementia.  Become socially strong through these avenues:

  • Keep in touch with friends and family.  This can be a simple avenue to maintain a social environment, but busy schedules and life transitions can make these connections challenging.  Plan ahead and put them on your calendar.
  • Connect with your community.   Joining a club, volunteering, becoming active in church, or taking a class at your community college are just a few ways you can make your social network stronger.
  • Get to know your neighbors. Neighbors, whether it is the person living next door or the local shop on the corner, can help you create meaningful connections close to home.
  • Use the internet.  The internet can be a tool that connects you to not only old friends and acquaintances, but to new people as well. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are just a few examples of social media sites that help you stay connected. 

Mental stimulation enhances brain cell connections and can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.  This can be done in several ways:

  • Engage in games and puzzles. Games and puzzles that challenge you to think target the areas of your brain linked to memory, concentration, language skills, visual-spatial abilities, and logic/organization.
  • Read and write. Reading and writing engage the memory component of the brain.  For an added challenge, try reading a word backwards or writing with your non-dominant hand.
  • Have a hobby. Hobbies can create a sense of purpose and challenge the brain, especially those that require hand-eye coordination and mental calculation such as knitting, woodcrafts, painting, and playing an instrument.
  • Do neurobics.  Neurobics is exercising a part of the brain that is not used on a regular basis.  A lot of what we do is done out of routine, such as brushing your teeth.  To challenge your brain to work harder, brush your teeth, eat, or do house chores with your non-dominant hand; drive or take a different route to the store or work; go new places to experience new sights and smells; and try finding things with your eyes closed such as loose change in your wallet. 

Physical activity can be a big brain booster, especially exercises that increase your heart rate.  When your heart beats, it pumps oxygen rich blood to the brain.  So, the more fit the heart is, the more effectively it will feed your brain. This can aid in decision making and conflict resolution skills. 

Nutrition plays a large role in brain development and function.  A brain-healthy diet encourages good blood flow to the brain and protects the heart.  Foods that are high in antioxidants and omega-3 and low in calories, sodium, and cholesterol are recommended.  Avoid or limit foods that are fried, high in fat, high in sugar, or processed. Refined grains, alcohol, and caffeine should also be limited.  Some brain-healthy foods to try: dark-skinned fruits and vegetables, cold water fish, nuts, and whole grains.

Sleep is also essential for brain function. While you are asleep, your brain is preparing for the next day by creating new pathways to help you learn and remember information.  Being sleep deprived can decrease your ability to make decisions, solve problems, and drive a car.  Try these tips to improve your sleep habits:

  • Set regular bedtime and waking hours – even on the weekends.
  • Avoid exercising within a few hours of bedtime.
  • Avoid reading or watching television in bed.
  • If you don’t fall asleep within the first 20 minutes of going to bed, get up and do something until you are ready to fall asleep. 

Your lifestyle is a huge influence in determining your brain health.  Establish or maintain healthy lifestyle behaviors now to ensure optimal aging throughout your lifespan. 

For more information on Keys to Embracing Aging, contact the Garland County Extension Office at 623-6841 or 922-4703, email Jessica at jvincent@uaex.edu, or visit our website at www.uaex.edu.

EHC Information

Are you interested in joining an existing Extension Homemakers Club? EHC is the largest volunteer organization in the state. For information on EHC call 623-6841 or 922-4703 or email jvincent@uaex.edu.

Master Gardeners

If you’re interested in becoming a Master Gardener and would like more information, you’re welcome to attend their monthly meeting on the 3rd Thursday of each month at 1pm at the Elks Lodge.  You may also call the Extension office on 623-6841 or 922-4703 or email abates@uaex.edu.

4-H Information

We have several 4-H clubs for our Garland county youth who are 5 to 19 years old.  For more information on all the fun 4-H activities there are, call the Extension Office at 623-6841 or 922-4703 or email Linda Bates at lbates@uaex.edu. 

The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution.

 

 

By Jessica Vincent
County Extension Agent - FCS
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jessica Vincent
County Extension Agent - FCS
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
236 Woodbine Hot Springs AR 71901
(501) 623-6841
jvincent@uaex.edu

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  • The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

    The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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