Why an active mind makes a healthy brain
Encouraging people to keep their minds active is important to help lower one’s risk of developing dementia. It has been suspected to be a key way to stave off the disease’s effects, something which benefits not only the individual with dementia, but society by lessening the social and economic burden of the disease.
Exactly why this helps has been difficult to pinpoint. But a psychology professor at York University, Ellen Bialystok, has developed a theory that is gaining traction based on the brain’s “cognitive reserve.” The idea was developed from her work on bilingualism and Alzheimer’s disease, where she showed that bilingual people with dementia start having problems with cognitive function four years later than their monolingual counterparts.
“The idea is you can load up the gas tank so that when it runs out, you still can keep going. The way you do it is by stimulating activities. Like doing crossword puzzles, joining a club, doing physical exercise,” explains Bialystok. “Stimulating activities can protect your brain.”
So what can you do to fill up your cognitive gas tank? Here are a few suggestions:
- Learn a new language. Although time consuming and challenging, it is a great activity. And remember, there are other ways, like reading and watching films, to maintain it than only speaking
- Take a course to learn a new skill like cooking, woodworking or a musical instrument
- Play a game to challenge your mind, like chess or a crossword puzzle
- Take up a team sport to exercise, challenge yourself and make new friends
- Pursue cultural activities like going to plays, museums, concerts and art galleries
See more ideas for keeping your brain active and healthy.