As medical science finds more and more ways to prolong our lives, for nearly all of us, one fear looms ever larger: that our minds will flicker and die long before our physical bodies give out. The good news is that your daily lifestyle can go a long way toward keeping you mentally fit as you enter your senior years. These four factors hold the key to a sane success:
Mental workouts. Stimulate your brain every day by reading, playing word games, engaging in crafts or hobbies, and doing puzzles—especially crosswords. Recent studies show that working crossword puzzles at least four days a week cuts your dementia risk by 47 percent.
Physical exercise. Physical activity—even if it’s a stroll around the block—helps keep blood flowing to your brain and encourages the formation of new brain cells.
Social engagement. People who remain actively connected with friends, family, and colleagues are less likely to succumb to dementia than those who avoid social gatherings or confine their interactions to texting, sending e-mail, or spending hours on social networking sites.
Weight control. Obesity in middle age doubles the odds that you’ll develop dementia later in life.
If you’re starting to feel confused, disoriented, or forgetful, and you’re taking multiple prescription medications, ask your doctor to join you in some detective work. It could be that the root of the problem is one, or more likely a combination of the drugs. Cutting back some dosages, or even weaning you off some of the meds entirely could revive your mental clarity without doing you any physical harm.