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Jumpstarting an Aging Brain

Jumpstarting an Aging Brain ImageAs we age, many of us want to keep our brains as healthy as our bodies. How do we do that? It turns out our brains are neuroplastic. Neuroplasticilty is the brain’s ability to repair damage by reorganizing and forming new connections between intact neurons. The catalyst for neuroplasticity is stimulating the neurons through cognitive activity.

Six months ago, I begin using the online brain training program called Lumosity. After menopause and breast cancer treatment, there have been times I struggled for a name, a word or a memory. I knew enough about neuroplasticity to realize I would need daily focused effort to upgrade my current cognitive function. The attraction of Lumosity was that it only took about 10 minutes a day and it sent me a reminder email every day. I wouldn’t have to remember to do it!

Lumosity has games or exercises covering five areas of brain learning: speed, memory, attention, flexibility and problem solving. With each session, the program picks six games for you to play. You get extra points for scoring a new personal highest score as well as making it into your personal top 5 scores for a particular game. Your final daily score lets you know how you compare to others in your age group. Personalized charts are available for you to see your brain progress in each area of brain learning.

I quickly discovered favorite games and not so favorite games. Lumosity gives you an option to turn off games you don’t want to play anymore. Pet Detective, Highway Hazards, Memory Matrix, Train of Thought, and Trouble Brewing were some of the games that I found fun and challenging.

I discovered my brain had good days and bad days. I did better on the games when I had more sleep, and less stress. Alcohol and some medications affected my brain in a negative way. Caffeine affected my brain in a positive way. I realized on days I didn’t feel great usually translated into a brain that didn’t perform as well.

What really got my attention was my own personal signs of improving cognition. Over time my scores improved as the games got harder. Gradually my brain operated with what I can best describe as an improved autopilot. I found words sooner and easier. New phone numbers and addresses stuck in my brain with less effort. I had less trouble remembering where I parked my car or where I left my keys. While brain training doesn’t increase intelligence, it has allowed me to develop better filtering, quicker response times and the ability to stay focused longer.

Given that alzheimer’s is the number one health concern among us baby boomers, a brain training program like Lumosity, Brainwell or brain HQ might be worth a try. There is no agreement in the medical community that a brain training program will prevent dementia. Neurologists believe a more holistic approach centered on preventive strategies, which include regular exercise, brain challenging activities, nutrition with plenty of fruits and vegetables, staying connected socially, and keeping your blood pressure, blood sugars and cholesterol levels in check.

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