3 Effective ways to stimulate your brain, protect your memory (& reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s dementia)
Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever. Mahatma Gandhi
Why is brain stimulation important?
In the same way exercise keeps your heart and body healthy (and in fact, keeps your brain healthy)- stimulating your brain, keeps your brain healthy.
How does brain stimulation work?
Stimulating your brain, increases the reserve capacity of your brain. You have an additional store, that you can tap into, if, or when:
1. Known solutions to challenges don’t work.
2. You develop an illness.
3. You age.
This reserve capacity is significant enough to lower your risk of Alzheimer’s dementia when you get older.
Stimulating your brain, also increases plasticity. Plasticity is the ability of the brain, to grow, to adapt, and to repair. This occurs in the hippocampus, which is a part of the brain important for memory.
Brain stimulation develops and maintains brain networks. These networks connect different parts of the brain with each other, which is essential for normal brain function. These networks normally deteriorate with ageing. Brain stimulation can prevent, or reduce, this deterioration.
What is brain stimulation?
Brain stimulation is also known brain training, cognitive stimulation and, sometimes, brain games or brain gym. Essentially, it is an activity that gets you to think and plan, to process information, and to use logic, memory and strategy.
If you think about it, most of what you do in a day, requires this. From driving, to shopping, to reading a book, you are planning and thinking (hopefully, mostly logically). So, why would you need to do anything more? To make brain stimulation effective, it has to challenge you. Daily activities can, and do stimulate your brain, but when they become too easy, so easy that you don’t even have to think about it, it is probably is not effective to stimulate you brain.
What can you do?
Three effective ways to stimulate your brain, and keep your brain and memory healthy at any age are to learn a new language, learn algebra (it’s supposed to be challenging), and to cook (yes, it’s true). These keep your brain health and help you to remember better at any age.
1. Learn a new language
Learning a new language stimulates your brain in many ways. Research has shown that people who speak more that one language are better able to process information, and switch attention when necessary (Bialystok et al). Being bilingual can delays the onset of Alzheimer’s dementia by up to four years.
Speaking more than one language, potentially improves your social network, which also keeps your brain healthy. Learn more here.
To make brain stimulation effective, it has to challenge you
2. Learn mathematics, or just algebra
Mathematics is underrated, and somehow seems to intimidate us. The beauty of maths is that is teaches us to think, plan, process, stay calm in the face of challenges, or the incomprehensible. All of these are essential life skills. After listening this TED Talk, by Roger Antonsen, you will fall in love with mathematics. I hope that it inspires you to start. Start small. Start with simple equations. There is no exam. Learn for fun. Perhaps an online class or lesson is a good way to start.
Any suggestions on how to learn maths as an adult?
If you don’t know how to cook, learn. If you do, you can still use this skill to stimulate you brain, and help your brain to stay healthy.
Think about what you have to do when you cook. You have to:
3. Process information
4. Use logic & reasoning
5. Tap into your memory
6. Be creative
7. Use under-appreciated maths skills (¾ cup of milk, divided by 2)
I tend to cook what I am familiar with, what’s easy, and where I don’t have to think too much.
Do you do the same?
Cooking only what you’re familiar with, will not stimulate your brain. Once or twice a week, challenge yourself to make something that you haven’t tried. Make notes. Adapt the recipe. Remember the recipe for the next time. Use your memory, not a list, when you go to the grocery store. Research how food affects your memory. Learn about a new ingredient- perhaps moringa or sorghum. Learn about where it grows, how it grows, what are it’s benefits, and how to cook it. Then prepare a meal, and invite people to share this with you. Share this information with people who join you for this meal. Spending time with people you love, as I have mentioned, helps to keep your brain, and memory, healthy. Use this everyday activity to effectively stimulate your brain.
There are many other activities that stimulate your brain, and keep your brain healthy. These include:
2. Playing chess
3. Completing crosswords
The key: It has to be challenging. If it’s easy, it’s not working.
What will you be cooking? What language are you inspired to speak? Will you take up the challenge to learn mathematics? Let me know.