Tips to maintain mental fitness
Dr. Dawn Mechanic-Hamilton, a neuropsychologist and Clinical Director of the Cognitive Fitness Program at the University of Pennsylvania's Penn Memory Center, knows all the "losing it" anxieties of older people.
The search for names, words, dates. Wondering why you've just opened the refrigerator, and what you were looking for. And the always-frightening thought that perhaps Alzheimer's is nipping at your heels.
Just as pushups and other forms of exercise can help you stay physically fit, she says there are ways to push back and maintain your mental fitness. Many of them are simple, accessible and practical. She offers these suggestions:
- Don't ignore physical fitness, which numerous studies have shown will also help in maintaining cognitive health longer. Consistent physical activity routines also have been shown to enhance self-confidence.
- A good rule of thumb on physical activity is to get into the habit of exercising more days than you don't exercise.
- Get out and be with people. Again, research has shown that getting together with others, especially those with similar interests, can help with cognitive fitness.
- Challenge your mind. Pick a topic that already interests you, and dive in. Make sure that you increase the level of difficulty as you continue the exploration.
- Volunteer. Helping others can help YOU to feel involved and useful.
- Seek treatment for low mood and stress from professionals or community resources.