How to keep your mind sharp: Preventive action

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How to keep your mind sharp: Preventive action
Worried about memory loss? Here are eight tips you can follow now to help prevent memory loss in the future
Keeping memory loss at bay as you age isn't just about keeping your mind in shape, though that's a major component. You can maintain your sharp mind as you get older by making healthy choices that keep the rest of your body in top form. Follow these tips now to prevent memory loss later.
Exercise your mind
Just as physical activity keeps your body strong, mental activity keeps your mind sharp and agile. One way to do this is to continually challenge yourself by learning new skills. If you continue to learn and challenge yourself, your brain continues to grow, literally. An active brain produces new connections between nerve cells that allow cells to communicate with one another. This helps your brain store and retrieve information more easily, no matter what your age.

How can you challenge yourself?

Learning to play a musical instrument
Playing Scrabble or doing crossword puzzles
Interacting with others
Switching careers or starting a new one
Starting a new hobby, such as crafts, painting, biking or bird-watching
Learning a foreign language
Staying informed about what's going on in the world
A mentally stimulating job, taking classes that interest you or even just reading more can help you maintain your memory longer as you age.

Stay physically active
Research links physical activity with slower mental decline. Exercise increases blood flow to all parts of your body, including your brain, and might promote cell growth there. Exercise also makes you feel more energetic and alert. The best part is that you can make it fun. Pick an activity you enjoy, whether it's doing yardwork or walking your dog. Exercise for at least 30 minutes most days of the week.

Develop healthy eating habits
Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Many of these contain antioxidants — substances that protect and nourish brain cells. And antioxidants may help prevent cholesterol from damaging the lining of your arteries and slowing blood flow to your brain. Foods high in antioxidants include colorful fruits and vegetables, such as oranges, berries, broccoli, spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes and tomatoes. In most cases, you're far more likely to gain health benefits from eating whole foods than by taking supplements, in pill, capsule or other forms.

Manage your stress
Keep your stress to a minimum. When you're stressed, your brain releases hormones that can damage your brain if you're exposed to them for days at a time. And chronic stress can make you feel depressed or anxious — feelings that can interfere with the way your brain processes memories.
Take a break. Even if you have only a few minutes to yourself, use it to breathe deeply and relax. Then look for long-term stress solutions, such as simplifying your life, getting some exercise or cutting out some activities.

Protect your head when exercising
Head trauma can increase your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. People who participate in sports such as running and swimming, which have a reduced risk of head trauma, have lower rates of memory loss. Take precautions to protect your head; for example, wear a helmet when riding your bike.

Stop smoking
You can add memory loss to the long list of health problems that come from smoking. Smokers may have twice the risk of getting Alzheimer's disease as do people who have never smoked. Stop now — it's never too late. If you quit smoking now, you can still reduce your risk of memory loss later in life.

Talk to your doctor

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