Writer: Dr. Michelle Braun
The best “brain-boosting” activities are captured by the acronym “SAVE.” They are:
• Slightly challenging. To grow the strongest neuronal connections, we must try an activity in which we are not already expert. The tasks you choose should be slightly above your current abilities, but not so difficult that they are frustrating. You should seek head-scratching moments that require you to actively think through information.
• Absorbing. You should feel engaged and interested in the tasks you do, so that you spend more time doing them. More time equals more neuronal connections.
• Varied. Mix up the activities you do so that you grow neuronal connections in different areas of your brain.
• Enlarge your knowledge. Choose activities that make you a “beginner again” and teach you new information. For example, if you are already an expert at crosswords, you are likely to grow more neuronal connections if you do a different type of task, rather than more crosswords.
The best brain-boosting activities are different for everyone. Examples include learning a new language, a new route to work, a new gardening technique, new information about a topic you love, watching educational television, and any other task that is Slightly challenging, Absorbing, Varied, and Enlarges your knowledge.
A Mayo Clinic study published early this year demonstrated the breadth of activities that help minimize cognitive decline. Results showed the risk of developing memory problems decreased by 30 percent when people used computers, by 28 percent when they did craft activities, by 23 percent when they were involved in social activities, and by 22 percent when playing games. The effect was strongest when the activities were done one to two times weekly.
Other powerful tools that boost memory and decrease the future risk of Alzheimer’s disease include:
• Cardiovascular exercise (the most powerful tool).
• A brain-healthy diet.
• Maintaining good vascular health (controlling blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and weight).
• Minimizing stress and depression.
• Good sleep quality and quantity.
About the author
Dr. Michelle Braun is a Yale- and Harvard-trained, board-certified neuropsychologist who is passionate about empowering individuals to boost brain health, reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, and triumph over “brain blips.”