Playing cards, reading books, and engaging in other mentally stimulating activities can help ward off dementia later in life, new research suggests. Scientists tracked more than 15,500 people ages 65 and over in Hong Kong for five years and routinely asked them about the “intellectual activities” they’d engaged in, including reading books and newspapers, playing board games, and even betting on horses. None of the participants had dementia at the start of the study, but by the end more than 1,300 participants had the condition.

Researchers found that individuals who performed intellectual activities on a daily basis had a far lower risk of developing cognitive decline than those who did them less often or not at all—even after adjusting for other factors, including physical exercise and fruit and vegetable consumption. “Given the growing older population worldwide,” the study authors write, “promoting regular engagement in intellectual activities might help delay or prevent dementia.”

In addition to intellectual activities, we also need to physically be on the move.  Try to get at least 45-60 minutes of moderate exercise a day.  Start small and build from there.  It can be a brisk walk or any activity that gets your heart rate up.

The food we eat is also critical.  Brain healthy foods include fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, fish caught in the wild and many others.  Our brains also need to be hydrated, so drink plenty of water throughout the day.

The social aspect of our lives is also important.  A Harvard study found that people with the most active social lives had the slowest rate of age-related memory decline.  Be willing to invest in your relationships with family and friends.  You can also look into joining clubs that represent hobbies or activities you enjoy.

Age-related memory loss can be embarrassing and inconvenient.

Like many people over 50, we have a tendency to forget where we put things – like our car keys, phone and glasses (in my case, they are usually on my head). We recently reported that researchers have determined that our mental cognition actually begins to decline at 45 years old.

In fact, our brain literally shrinks by about 5% per decade after we hit the age of 40!

That is a sobering thought for most of us – but there is something we can do naturally – in addition to the activities described above – to slow down this process.

Our brains need good nutrients, just like the rest of our body. In fact, it could be argued that good nutrition for the brain is vital to our quality of life as we age.

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