Brain Activities And Dementia – What You Need To Know

August 16th, 2017

Nothing is more painful than seeing a loved one gradually withdraw from their family, friends and favorite activities. Dementia is fairly common in seniors and some of its most common symptoms are decline in brain health and failing to keep up with day to day activities.

Since dementia is a progressive disease, early signs of memory loss and slower thinking abilities should not be ignored. We cannot stop the process, but we can surely make the journey a little less bumpy, by taking care of our mind and bodies.

The best way to keep your mind sharp and active is to regularly engage in effective brain exercises. Research has established that any mental activity that encourages the thinking and learning process is effective in delaying the onset of dementia. Thus, the greater the challenge, the more beneficial it will be for the brain. Hence, involving oneself in regular and complex mental activities can certainly lower the risk of dementia.

Mentioned ahead are some tips that will help you in identifying effective brain exercises, which are enjoyable as well as beneficial.

Choose an activity that you enjoy

It is extremely important to engage in a mentally challenging activity that you enjoy doing. If you force yourself to do something that you find boring, it will only add to your stress. So, instead of building positive neuro connections in your brain, it will cause frustration and stress and will impact your brain negatively. You are also more likely to continue the brain exercises regularly, if you enjoy doing them.

Gradually increase the challenge

Just like you cannot lift a 20-kg weight on your first day at the gym, you cannot expect the brain to perform a highly complex task on the first day. Gradually increase your pace and allow your mind to absorb some new information daily. Compared to children, it is more difficult for adults to form new mental pathways. Thus, it will take a bit longer to convert short term memories into long term memories.

Best brain exercises

Here are some healthy brain exercises to stimulate and strengthen the mind that you can conveniently do from the comfort of your home.

  • Brain teasers

A very effective mental exercise for seniors is solving brain teasers. They are so much fun to do, and can help lighten up any social gathering, if done in a group. Research has proved that active members of society are less prone to dementia and can retain their memories in a better form. So, log on to a website that offers brain health support and start flexing those brain muscles.

  • Gardening

There is no questioning the fact that gardening has numerous benefits, since it improves mental clarity and keeps your mind sharp. It also reduces stress for those with depression and can also be a good way to exercise. Increased physical activity is a great way to improve brain function as you get older. Concentration levels improve and old people with memory problems are able to recall details about gardening, which consequently makes them feel connected to memories from their younger days.

Gardening stimulates the brain  by making you plan, schedule and tackle options like whether to use herbicides, pesticides, etc. Learning new gardening techniques helps strengthen the brain and your knowledge about flora and fauna also increases. Moreover, the soil contains around 1,500 good bacteria that get absorbed by the skin and are known to prevent diseases.

  • Meditation

A Harvard study has concluded that brain structure changes through mindfulness meditation. It also has the ability to eliminate symptoms of pain, depression and anxiety. Interestingly, one of the main benefits of meditation is that it improves concentration and attention span as it increases cortical thickening and grey matter, thereby slowing down the aging rate of the brain. Meditation along with yoga can help individuals be at peace and feel happier, especially those who are in the early stages of dementia, and are struggling and coping with the reality of memory loss.

  • Learning new languages

Understanding language is a difficult task for the brain and thus learning a foreign language gives your brain a good workout. Some universities encourage their students to learn new languages as it will help them broaden their horizon and prevent dementia in their later lives. Good evidence supports the fact that certain type of dementia appears five years later to those who know two languages than monolinguist. Learning multiple languages can also have the following benefits:

-Better focus, concentration and attention

-Greater memorization skills

-Being flexible at decision making, prioritizing and planning

-Switch between multiple tasks with ease

-Have higher general intelligence

  • Cooking and meal time activities

Over a period of time, people with dementia may experience loss of appetite and a change in their food palette. Sensory changes decline the ability to smell and taste the food and this can greatly impact eating habits. Supporting involvement in food preparation can help dementia patients feel a sense of purpose and usefulness as well as redeveloping interest in food and mealtimes.

Moreover, activities like washing and peeling vegetables, and making fruit salads is also a great way to stimulate the senses of smell and touch and getting reacquainted with the different tastes.

Hence, encouraging a person with dementia to participate in mealtime tasks such as laying the table, putting items such as spoons, forks and knives, clearing up the dishes and washing the utensils will help them retain skills. It will also provide  much needed boost to their confidence.

More advanced activities like stirring food, pouring condiments or chopping are a few ways for people with dementia to get them involved in cooking, or preparing food, even if some of their skills have declined.

Thus, it is a proven fact that keeping yourself mentally and physically active can help you lead a healthy life. Performing brain exercises regularly helps reserve and create new connections between the existing brain cells and can also form new brain cells.

Researchers have found a higher rate of Alzheimer’s in people who did not receive formal education. Education helps strengthen the brain cells, hence protecting the brain from dementia and other mental illnesses. So, flex those brain cells regularly if you want to lead a healthy and active life.