Tribune Print Share Text

How to stay sharp

Tips for brain fitness

Created date

July 26th, 2010

Scientists used to think that older adults brains were inflexible hence the adage, you can t teach an old dog new tricks. And it s true that your brain, like other organs in your body, undergoes wear and tear from years of use. But if your memory isn t as sharp as it once was, or if you want to preserve your brain s function as you age, try these brain-sharpening tips. [caption id="attachment_13492" align="alignright" width="255" caption="Move it! Regular exercise helps keep the mind, as well as the rest of you, flexible. (File photo)"][/caption]


What s good for your heart is good for your brain. Regular exercise may be one of the best ways to keep your brain sharp. You don t have to necessarily exert yourself moderate activity is best: One study found particular brain benefits for 60- to 80-year-olds who walked three times a week. Compared to their non-exercising counterparts, the walkers had more flexibility with their thinking skills.

Eat foods of many colors

Some research suggests that improved memory may be associated with a diet high in colorful vegetables, fruits, and fish especially fish containing high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are found primarily in coldwater fish or fatty fish like salmon and tuna. So put a rainbow of colorful foods on your plate every day.

Learn new things

If you get mired in the same routines, your brain becomes hardwired or less elastic. Research shows, however, that older adults brains retain some plasticity (the ability to rearrange connections among cells). Learning new things helps to preserve plasticity. If you like to play cards, learn a new card game. Learn a new language or even a musical instrument. If you like computer-based games, try new ones on a regular basis. Keep in mind, however, that there is little scientific evidence demonstrating that high-tech computer games are any better for your mental fitness than other activities. [caption id="attachment_13493" align="alignright" width="224" caption="Color me healthy! A diet high in colorful vegetables, fruit, and fish leads to improved memory. (File photo)"][/caption]

Be social

People who maintain social networks seem to have better mental fitness. And you don t have to be a social butterfly to reap benefits. Simply interacting with key people on a regular basis, whether it s sharing experiences, stories, or hobbies, can make a difference in keeping your brain sharp.