Matters of the Mind: Keeping Your Mind Fit

Whether you are calculating multivariate statistics, or simply trying to stay alert during a long meeting—keeping your mind sharp matters. Luckily, the steps to exercising your brain are easier than you may think.

“Exercise is just as healthy for your mind as it is for your body,” explains Jeff Esper, D.O., an osteopathic Neurologist, practicing in Erie, Pa. “Regular physical exercise will not only help your cardiovascular health, but it will increase blood flow to the brain and help with your creativity and memory.”

In addition, the calming benefits of exercising will reduce stress, which can cause memory problems. Physical activity can also prevent depression, which slows thinking. Exercise will clear the mind and allow for creative thinking and a problem-solving state of mind. For example, studies have shown that after walking for 15 minutes, individuals will increase their memory and ability to multi-task by more than 15%. Relaxation techniques, such as yoga and meditation, are also beneficial for the brain.

“There are many ways to keep your mind active,” explains Dr. Esper. Some ideas he recommends are:

  • Stay curious and involved
  • Work crosswords or other puzzles
  • Attend lectures and plays
  • Continue your education
  • Play games
  • Try memory exercises

 

There are several different memory techniques and exercises. One technique is called over-learning. This means that the individual would repeat and study something more than the topic might normally require. This technique might be employed when meeting new people. Oftentimes repeating the new name several times will help with remembering the person’s name later.

Another memory technique that helps with remembering short lists of items is called the link or story method.

“Using this method, you would simply make up a story that links together the different items you want to remember,” explains Dr. Esper.

Dr. Esper further explains that memory exercises can help fight age-related memory loss such as dementia.

“There has been a growing amount of research indicating mental exercises can help prevent memory loss associated with dementia.”

Dementia is a neurological disorder that affects the ability to think, speak, reason, remember and move. The most common form of dementia, Alzheimer's disease, involves a loss of nerve cells in the areas of the brain that control memory and other mental functions. The first sign of Alzheimer's disease is usually forgetfulness. As the disease progresses, it affects language, reasoning and understanding.

The precise cause of Alzheimer's disease is unknown, but risk increases with age. Ten percent of the population over the age of 65 has Alzheimer's, and nearly half of the population over 85 has the disease.

“It is important to make decisions today that will help you later in life,” explains Dr. Esper. “Keeping both your mind and body active is a great start.”

In addition to exercise for the brain and body, Dr. Esper also recommends including these healthy vitamins and minerals in your diet:

Vitamin E- Vitamin E is found in all cells, including the cells of the brain. Damage to nerve tissue may result from a Vitamin E deficiency in the cells. You can eat foods like almonds, green leafy vegetables and whole grain flour to benefit from the different forms of this vitamin.

* Vitamin B- Every type of Vitamin B helps in preserving brain function and sharpness. Early brain development, declining memory and inability to focus have been linked with low levels of folic acid and Vitamins B-12 and B-6.

* Vitamin C-Eating plenty of broccoli, legumes, oranges, potatoes and strawberries will give you a large dose of this vitamin, which helps keep the brain healthy.

* Magnesium- Approximately 300 milligrams one to three times a day will help protect the brain from many substances that damage nerve cells.

“It’s important that you consult your doctor if forgetfulness or mind lapses ever become disruptive in your daily routine and before taking any supplements,” Dr. Esper cautions.

Preventive medicine is just one aspect of care osteopathic physicians (D.O.s) provide. Osteopathic physicians are fully-licensed to prescribe medicine and practice in all specialty areas including surgery. D.O.s are trained to consider the health of the whole person and use their hands to help diagnose and treat their patients.

 

February 1, 2007
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