Stay in the (Brain) Game

Having trouble recalling someone’s name when you’re out and about or remembering where you put your car keys? As you age, your brain may work slower — here’s how to keep your gray matter in great shape.

Cognitive function can begin to decline as early as age 40 according to Diana R. Kerwin, M.D., neurologist on the medical staff and director of Texas Alzheimer’s and Memory Disorders.

“When people reach their 40s, the processing speed of their brains may slow down and take longer to retrieve information,” Dr. Kerwin says. “By the time they reach their 60s, they may have trouble recalling information, such as a person’s name. This is part of the normal aging process.”

Could Video Games Help?
Love passing the time with games on your smartphone or tablet? You’re in luck. In the past, playing video games has garnered many negative health connotations, but new research suggests that clocking in hours playing games could increase the cortical thickness in two specific areas of the brain.
In a study published in the online journal PLOS ONE, researchers reviewed data of 152 adolescents who played an average of 12.6 hours of video games a week. Researchers found that avid video gamers experienced greater thickness in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which aids in decision making, and the left frontal eye field, which controls hand-eye coordination. The same benefits may apply to seniors, too.

4 More Ways to Train Your Brain
It’s never too late to positively impact your brain health. To get started:

  1. Get — and keep — moving. Moderate cardiovascular exercise promotes blood flow through the whole body, including the brain. Dr. Kerwin recommends people try carving out 30 minutes four times a week for exercise such as walking or swimming.
  2. Avoid sugar, processed foods and diet sodas. These items could actually cloud your brain’s ability to function, with some studies suggesting that diet soda consumption leads to memory loss.
  3. Eat more lean protein. Cold-water fish, such as tuna and salmon, both contain omega-3 fatty acids, which help build new brain cell membranes. Up your omega-3 intake by nibbling on walnuts for a snack or substituting ground flaxseed for flour and oil in baking.
  4. Stay social. Don’t cancel that coffee date. Making time for friends or visiting with family can help keep your brain engaged.

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