My grandma, who I call Mama, lives in the East part of Africa and is 95, soon to be 96. I talk to her on the phone, with a little bit of a language barrier but it’s usually fine. She’s the oldest in the family and the wisest but, personally, I think she is the smartest. Mama has a routine every morning. She wakes up, prays, and walks around the garden with her cane in hand. She then goes back inside to read her bible. This routine she does every morning may sound simple, but it’s incredibly healthy for her mental fortitude. I see this as a pattern with most of the elderly in my family. My dad, who is almost 70, is a heavy reader. He likes to play guitar every night to blow off some steam, and even takes evening bike rides once in a while. I think these activities make them curious and force them to think and play a role in their lack of cognitive decline.
I like to think. I think everyone likes to think as well; most of us can’t help it. If you want to keep your thinking skills for the rest of your life or want to think a little sharper; challenging your brain daily is an essential activity. Many people are not aware of the importance of training your brain even though it is one of the most vital exercises you can do. Your brain is like a muscle: you must train it consistently for it to achieve its maximum strength and potential.
Training your brain can mean so many things: it can be healthily debating with a friend about a topic that makes both of you think or doing puzzles or word games every day during breakfast. It can mean taking a nice walk and being curious and observing things, actively thinking, and asking questions. All of these have so many benefits, even if they seem simple. As you get older you are more susceptible to cognitive decline, including diseases like Alzheimer’s. If you start exercising your mind right now, you can slow or even avoid the development of these cognitive diseases.
You might wonder, “Why is it important to continually challenge your brain throughout life?” This question has many answers, but Dr. Michael Roizen, who works in internal medicine, answered it best. “Researchers measured the daily mental and physical activities of living nuns and autopsied those who died during the study. They found that 37 percent of the nuns who died had confirmed Alzheimer’s disease. The nuns who fared the best were the ones who were better educated. The nuns with Alzheimer’s were, as young adults, less mentally and physically active outside their jobs than those without the disease. That’s important because Alzheimer’s disease takes decades to develop. The amazing part was that even if the nuns showed pathological signs of Alzheimer’s, they had no clinical symptoms.” Another writer, Jill Suttie, who has first-hand experience with her father’s cognitive decline, states: “If researchers are right, my father has (inadvertently) followed some of the best health practices for battling mental decline. New studies are pointing to ways one can slow, and in some cases reverse, the memory loss, distractibility, and other cognitive deficits that often come with advancing age.” Doing puzzles and living well can help diminish and entirely wipe out mental decline and memory loss as a whole.
Heidi Godman, an executive editor of the Harvard Health Letter writes about her friend Betty, a youthful 88-year-old, still as active as ever. She says, “[L]iving the way Betty does — always learning new things, and staying busy with friends and favorite activities — is exactly what the experts say can help keep our thinking skills sharp.” “Cognitive and social engagement have been shown to be protective against cognitive decline, whereas hearing loss, depression, and social isolation are associated with cognitive decline,” says Dr. Kathryn Papp, a neuropsychologist and instructor in neurology at Harvard Medical School.”
You might think, “It is not that important”, or “It’s a waste of time. I already work and talk to people, why do I have to take more time to precisely sharpen my mental fortitude?” Your mental state is what rules everything else that goes on in your life. If that isn’t under control everything else will be chaos. If you stop taking care of your brain or working it out in general, it will be weak or not at full potential — not to mention you must take care of yourself as soon as possible, as the chance of Alzheimer’s and other cognitive diseases have a larger and larger chance of happening as you grow older.
Would you rather be sitting around all day only to wish you were being active when the time comes? Or stay active and exercise daily to appreciate the good things in life.?You would be able to do most if not all the activities you could do in your youth. Just because you are getting older does not mean you can’t have fun and be busy. Start now, or it’ll be too late.