March 16-22 Is Brain Awareness Week

February 23, 2015

URBANA, Ill. - As people age, they often concentrate on improving and maintaining their physical health, but they should also be working on their cognitive or brain health, said a University of Illinois Extension family life educator.

“To maintain a healthy brain, get enough high-quality sleep, eat a heart-healthy diet, and exercise regularly,” said Cheri Burcham.

The educator said that lowering your stress levels and keeping solid social connections and support also contribute to achieving good brain health. “Researchers agree that challenging your brain daily is also beneficial and necessary to maintain brain health and delay cognitive decline as we get older.”

According to Burcham, you are never too young or too old to start practicing brain fitness.

“We need to challenge our brains with many different activities. It is essential to reach beyond what is comfortable and try new exercises and activities that are interesting, varied, and make us think a little more,” she said.

If an activity becomes too easy, you are not really exercising anymore, so adjust the level of difficulty until you feel challenged again, she said.

“It’s not only important to get out of our comfort zone, variety is also important. Our brain has many different areas to keep fit. Just as we wouldn’t be considered physically fit if we only exercised our legs, we can’t achieve total brain health if we only focus on one area such as short-term memory. We also have to exercise the parts of the brain responsible for critical thinking, spatial reasoning, and long-term memory,” she added.

To learn more, read the University of Illinois Extension blog “Family Files: Facts for All Ages” at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/hkmw/eb380/. Extension educators will be dedicating each weekly post in the month of March to maintaining and enhancing brain function.

 

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