Brain health fascinates us. Whenever my reading uncovers new research or real-time practices that are working, you’ll read about them here. My theory is that it’s never too early to work on that muscle. Without it, the rest doesn’t much matter.
When I ran across an interview with a 99-year-old preeminent neuroscientist who has spent her life studying other people’s brains, I understandably was interested in what she does to keep her own brain sharp.
“I do puzzles. I’m addicted to reading. I read whodunit stories. I read the Guardian and the New Yorker very thoroughly. I get my exercise walking to work,” Brenda Milner told a reporter at the AARP Bulletin.
Ms. Milner is a professor at Canada’s prestigious McGill University who conducts research at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital. She walks 10 minutes up hill to work every day which means of course, she walks downhill home.
“When you get older, you feel much more insecure walking downhill. I don’t use a cane. Some years ago, I broke my leg. I don’t have good motor skills, and I found the cane got twisted around my legs. I feel more secure without the cane, but now I am extra careful,” she told the reporter.
And why she does keeps working?
“I am very curious. Human quirks attract my interest. I wouldn’t still be working if I didn’t find it exciting,” she told AARP. And Ms. Milner says she’s grateful she doesn’t have to retire.
What should the rest of us do to keep mentally sharp? AARP asked.
“Find out what your strengths and weaknesses are, and play to your strengths, something that challenges you a bit.”
99-years-old, still doing brain research and walking uphill and downhill every day—I’d say she’s challenging herself.
What can we start doing mentally and physically now that will keep us curious and active as we age? AARP asked more than 1,500 adults age 40+ what they thought was important to keep brains healthy and what they were doing about it. Virtually everyone surveyed agreed that getting enough sleep; exercising your body; managing stress effectively; eating a healthy diet; and reading are important to maintaining brain health. Sounds reasonable.
Unfortunately, only about 50-60% of the respondents said they were engaged in those activities. One participation level fell to 43%. You guessed it, managing stress.
Nike has it right, “Just do it.” If we want a healthy brain as we age, we increase our prospects by doing more than thinking about it. And yes, that was a play on words.