As you get older, do you worry about staying sharp? Even without the severe cognitive decline of Alzheimer’s disease and related forms of dementia, aging can leave you feeling as if you’ve lost a little off your fastball, so to speak. Fortunately, there are ways to improve your mental acuity as you age and counteract some of that natural decline. After all, pitchers who lose a little off their fastball become wily veterans.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
You may not remember every single detail from your driver’s ed class, but you probably remember learning that extreme sleep deprivation is tantamount to intoxication—over 18 hours without sleep gives you the cognitive equivalent of blowing a .05 on a breathalyzer. Though conventional wisdom is that seniors require less sleep than growing adolescents or middle-aged adults, in reality, seniors need their 40 winks just as much as anyone. Regardless of what you’ve heard elsewhere, strive for seven to eight hours of sleep to help stay sharp.
A nine-letter word, and the clue is “your best friends have never had one with you.” You guessed it: “crossword.” Indulging in the problem-solving, wordplay, and vocabulary-building of a daily crossword puzzle is an excellent way to put your brain to the test each morning. If you’re more left-brained than right-brained, preferring hard numbers to wispy words, you may spring for a book of sudoku puzzles instead and stretch your mind to make the numbers fit. Those 1000-piece jigsaw puzzles that seem virtually insurmountable don’t just offer mental stimulation; picking up and placing the pieces can help you maintain your fine motor skills, too. In addition, don’t forget to read challenging and rewarding works of literature.
If you suffer from a chronic lung disease, such as emphysema or chronic (rather than acute) bronchitis, you may not be getting the oxygen you need for your brain to operate at 100 percent. Not getting enough oxygen affects you physically and mentally. You may feel as though you suffer from a lack of stamina—you can’t work up the effort to do the tasks you want to do. Additionally, you can experience slower reaction times, a sense of confusion, and a general “foggy” feeling. Deploying a portable oxygen concentrator to maximize your O2 intake can pull you out of that fog and help you feel sharp again. Thanks to its portability, you won’t have to worry about feeling tethered to a chair—you can check off those items on your to-do list.
Learn New Tricks
It’s never too late to develop a new hobby. One of the best ways to improve your mental acuity as you age is to keep learning and developing skills. Don’t get complacent—set out to become the photographer, writer, or painter you never were before. Pick up a musical instrument you’ve always wanted to learn but never had the time for. Maybe now is the time to finally teach yourself Italian. The brain is a real use-it-or-lose-it thing.