5 habits to help keep your mind sharp

Denise Dador Image
Thursday, October 19, 2017
5 habits to help keep your mind sharp
Researchers who are part of a Mayo Clinic team say there are five strategies that can help keep your brain sharp.

Researchers who are part of a Mayo Clinic team say there are five strategies that can help keep your brain sharp.

Those healthy brain habits are being studied to see if they can help people with mild cognitive impairment stem the tide of decline.

Fred Guggenheimer said his wife of almost 60 years was just diagnosed with dementia.

He said he's committed to helping her in any way he can now.

""It says in sickness and in health. So, I'm going to do all I can to uphold what I promised the Lord I was going to do," said Fred.

He said it's very tough to watch the disease progress. "I've seen her sit there and just put her hands, cause you know she's confused. And then she just cries," Guggenheimer said.

But a Mayo Clinic program called "The Habit" may be able to help people like Guggenheimer's wife.

Clinical neuropsychologist Glenn Smith is a part of the Mayo research team that developed program, which is based on habit-healthy actions to boost independence and thinking.

"Instead of trying to find the one thing we should be doing to help them, we should be trying everything we can think of," Smith said.

The Habit program focuses on five strategies that can improve cognitive functioning, specifically in patients with mild impairment, starting with 60 minutes of exercise, five days a week.

But these "healthy habits" can benefit most everyone as they age.

Smith said, "The data's pretty solid that physical activity and exercise helps one maintain brain health."

Researchers also advocate journaling and keeping a calendar with notes. Mentally challenging brain games and puzzles are also part of the strategy to slow mental decline.

The other components of The Habit program include wellness tracking. This includes monitoring sleep and meals to make sure they're healthy and balanced as well as managing stress.

The last part: staying socially connected.

Experts say any kind of social support, whether it's a regular program attended at a senior center, or meals shared with friends, or family time, can be a crucial part of preventing decline.

Fred Guggenheimer said he believes that kind of support is critical, especially as his wife's dementia progresses.

"We can't back it up any. The best we can hope for is this will slow it down," he said.

Doctors say people shouldn't to wait until there are obvious problems to incorporate some of these strategies. They can benefit healthy people who want to to stay sharp as they age.

Those healthy habits include monitoring and managing high blood pressure, watching weight and being active.

In addition to The Habit program, researchers are currently testing exercise and other cognition strategies in what's called the "Peace of Mind" study.