To stay at the top of your game, stay on top of your health
A healthy mind relies on a healthy body. Elevated blood pressure and cholesterol, diabetes, excess weight, smoking, and a sedentary lifestyle all contribute to cognitive declines. Working to stay healthy helps you stay sharp.
Stop smoking. In 2010, a National Institutes of Health panel noted that current smokers were 41% more likely to exhibit cognitive declines than former smokers or nonsmokers.
Challenge your mind. Engaging in challenging board games, reading, working crossword puzzles, playing a musical instrument, and acquiring new skills may help keep your mind fit. These activities seem to expand the web of neuronal connections in the brain and help keep neurons nimble and alive.
Challenge your body. Brain cells crave a steady diet of oxygen. Physically active people lower their risk for developing dementia and are more likely to stay mentally active.
Get your rest. Too little sleep can affect memory. Six hours may be the minimum needed, although researchers testing college students found those who had eight hours were better able to learn new skills.
Watch your weight. Staying within a normal weight range lowers your risk for illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, and stroke, which can compromise the brain to varying degrees.
Check with your doctor. Are there any factors — such as medication side effects, vitamin deficiencies, depression, or chronic conditions — that could be better managed to help you stay as mentally sharp as possible? Discuss these issues with your doctor.