Of course, your brain is going to change as you get older. But if you’ve bought in to the idea that every change is beyond your control, we have good news for you: No matter what stage of life you’re in, you have the power to improve your thinking skills, your cognitive functions and your overall brain health.
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That was one of the key takeaways from a report by the Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH), an independent group of scientists and other brain health experts. Ready for some more myth busting? Read on.
Myth 1: You can’t learn after a certain age
The opposite is true. In fact, your brain thrives when you give it a challenge. Try starting something new that excites you, like enrolling in a dance class or diving into a cause. Or add a twist to current hobbies — if crossword and sudoku puzzles are your thing, try a harder level.
Myth 2: Brain maintenance takes hard work
This is sort of true — you need to put some work into keeping your brain young. But the work should be fun and enjoyable, not a chore. The GCBH leadership suggests doing more of what you already love (gardening, for example). Or branch out into territory you’ve always admired from a distance, like playing the piano or researching your family tree. Finally, earn bonus points if you have a job that keeps your interest level high.
Myth 3: Flexing your mental muscles counts most
There’s definitely value in tackling word problems and other brain games. But physical exercise holds the real key to a youthful brain. The GCBH report notes that physical activity is one of the best-studied methods for maintaining brain health.
In one study, for example, middle-aged adults who exercised were 40 percent less likely to develop thinking or memory problems, compared with those who didn’t exercise. Bottom line: Keep moving!
Discover the truth behind other brain health myths when you activate your access to AARP Staying Sharp. It’s easy to enroll and is included with your AARP membership.