Aging can significantly change the way our brains function. As we get older, we become more likely to develop degenerative cognitive diseases such as dementia, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. While aging is unavoidable, many of the diet, exercise, and activity choices we make influence how well our brains perform over our lifetimes. Take a look at these brain-healthy social practices that can delay or prevent cognitive disorders and memory loss later in life.

Physical Exercise –
Muscles you don’t use begin to atrophy. Aside from keeping your body in shape, daily exercise has been shown to help prevent dementia and other diseases that lead to cognitive degeneration. Many experts say a daily 30-minute exercise routine can help you enjoy both improved physical and mental health.

Mental Stimulation –
Activities such as knitting, reading, and filling out crossword puzzles can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Cognitive benefits occur with lifelong learners, so make sure to keep your brain engaged daily.

Prayer and Spirituality –
Scientists are continually baffled by intense displays of brain activity that are triggered by prayer and spirituality. No matter what faith or denomination individuals participate in, prayer and spiritual activities seem to increase moods, improve perception, and reduce stress. Dr. Andrew Newberg of the Myrna Brind Center for Integrative Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University uses imaging technology to show how various areas of the brain light up with activity, even as the participant remains still and silent. Morgan Freeman narrates a video about his research, called “Through the Wormhole: Your Brain on Prayer”. It details how the language and visual centers of the brain react during prayer. Many participants in these studies pray on a daily basis.

Living a Social Life –
Whether one is introverted or extroverted, our brains are wired to interact on a social level. The American Journal of Public Health has also noted that socially active individuals are less likely to succumb to dementia and other brain diseases. Those who live alone exhibit higher risks, so be sure to cultivate a wide social network and participate in group activities several times a week.

Meditation –
The potential effects of meditation are very similar to prayer – increased awareness, positive moods, and stress reduction. Meditation on a daily or weekly basis can help one experience some of these mental benefits.
There isn’t a single sure way to improve brain health and wellness. So many factors play a role in agile brain activity and memory maintenance that it’s difficult to parse them all out. However, the above steps are some of the best techniques we know of today. While aging is inevitable, these steps may help ensure a longer and more enjoyable life.
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