Neurologists encourage a social lifestyle to help fight dementia: Go out with friends, sing, challenge your brain

Neurologists suggest that going out with friends, singing, and performing brain-challenging activities can help prevent dementia, as reported by The Daily Mail.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 15 percent of adults aged 60 and above suffer from a mental disorder. Lifestyle choices such as diet, exercise, and sleep largely influence dementia and Alzheimer’s disease onset. Neurologists Dean Sherzai and Ayesha Sherzai listed in their book, The Alzheimer’s Solution, recommendations on what lifestyle changes you can make to withstand aging and promote mental health. (Related: Help prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s with these five foods.)

The brain is a muscle: Exercise it to keep it strong

People with the highest levels of cognitive reserve are the most protected against developing memory problems, such as dementia. Cognitive reserve is the ability of the brain to cope with damage by using different brain functions to maintain its ability to work well. It is affected by the level of mental activities we do. Thankfully, this is something entirely within our control and can be broadened and improved during our lifetime.

Brain games, such as Sudoku and crossword puzzles, help enhance cognitive skills. However, these do not actively challenge various areas of the brain nor do they increase the connections between them as they only engage the brain on a simple level of thought processing. The brain needs complex activities that will form strong, resilient connections within it, which would be extremely hard to break up. If you challenge yourself frequently enough, these connections become strengthened to create complicated, overlapping communication among all the areas of the brain.

Brain-boosting activities challenge and engage different parts of the brain. Brain exercises should be challenging enough without being overly difficult. The goal is to be able to perform these activities without becoming frustrated, as getting past through these leads to successful cognitive age-proofing.

One of these complex brain activities is learning a language. Elderly people diagnosed with mild Alzheimer’s disease, but also speak two languages have stronger brain networks and retain better cognitive reserve than people who are fluent in only one language, according to studies. Speaking two language could slow down the onset of dementia by around four-and-a-half years. This is because learning a different language uses different parts of the brain as you work to master new words and expressions. You exercise your brain when you recall your memory, understand the language in context, and form coherent written or verbal responses.

Don’t forget to sing and hang out with your friends

Apart from challenging your brain, the neurologists also recommend the two following activities:

  1. Singing – Singing publicly supports mental health because it exercises the brain’s language centers when you read the lyrics and perform them; mood centers when you interpret the song; and memory centers when you recall a specific tune and any personal connections you might have with it.
  2. Socialize with people – Every multi-modal activity that you do works better with friends or family. Singing at a karaoke place with your friends and family and practicing or speaking another language with others are better than doing these things alone. Being sociable can boost the effect of any brain-building activity, according to studies. Social interaction increases cognitive reserve and protects against brain damage as it requires complex communication skills. Various brain functions such as face recognition, memory, focus, attention, listening, processing, and language skills all happen while you talk to people. Interacting also stimulates emotions that are essential for motivation and helps you find your life’s purpose and meaning. Socializing with others can improve your mood and reduce your chance of depression. Your friends and family may also encourage you to develop healthy habits like exercising. Moreover, it gives you an outlet to express your emotions, both positive and negative, which is good for the body and brain.

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