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Longevity and Mental Fitness

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Updated February 20, 2007

Lifestlye and Mental Fitness:

When we look at averages for the US, our mental health as we age looks bleak. More than 20% of the population over 85 suffers from some form of dementia. Is this genetic fate, or can lifestyle factors influence how our brains age? Looking to other cultures and peoples, we see that some lifestyles allow for high level mental functioning well beyond 85. The average aging process does not have to be your destiny if you following some basic advice:

Crosswords, etc.:

There has been much in the news about the benefits of crossword puzzles, suduku and other mental games. Research has shown the remaining engaged in cognitive activities will help to prevent memory loss. The problem with these activities are that they are both sedentary and solitary. So while crossword puzzles may help somewhat to protect your mental functioning, exercising with a friend will give you much more benefit for your effort.

Relationships:

Relationships help you to stay engaged with the world. Relationships are complex to maintain and challenge your mental functioning on many levels. Engage with people throughout your life and your brain will thank you for it.

Live with Meaning and Purpose:

Interviews with healthy, long-lived people usually reveal an individual with particular drive and enthusiasm. Find a passion, become involved, and really devote yourself to a cause. You will meet people, remain active and have something for your brain to 'chew' on all day long.

Exercise:

Exercise not only keeps your body fit and your heart healthy, it improves mental functioning. Walking two hours a week can have benefits. More exercise brings even more benefits. Exercise enhances memory and improves thinking. In short, exercising your body makes your brain work better.

Diet:

Diet can be very important to limiting brain aging. Antioxidants help to prevent damage to cells in the body. Antioxidants are found in vegetables, grains, fish, and some beans. Wine and dark chocolate also contain high levels of antioxidants. Antioxidants work against free radicals, which play a role in the aging of the body. Vitamins C and E, as well as magnesium and zinc, are all antioxidants. Try a diet high in a wide variety of vegetables, as well as wine and chocolate in moderation.

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