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Brain Fitness

The Spring 2010 issue of Heart to Heart hit mailboxes this week.  There are many interesting articles in this issue, including Surviving & Thriving after Stroke, Impella Heart Recovery Device, Dining Out with Margaux’s and this great feature on Brain Fitness.


No matter how old you are, you can strengthen your brain — no gym equipment required! By doing routine things in non-routine ways, you spark your physical senses (vision, hearing, taste, touch, smell) and activate areas of your brain that may not have gotten much use in the past. The result: Increased mental sharpness. You might even be able to remember a name or two at your next class reunion or family gathering!

“These brain exercises, which are really simple to do, are based on how the brain learns, stores and creates memories,” said Linda Mayo, RN, CRRN, CNRN, patient educator, WakeMed Rehabilitation Hospital. Research suggests that performing daily activities in different ways can trigger new associations in the brain and potentially boost its ability to produce neurotrophins to help fi ght the effects that aging can have on the brain.

The exercises are not crosswords or jumbles. Sorry! While these games are fun and do make you think, they are isolating and do not stimulate brain cell growth. To truly help sharpen your mind and boost the production of those important neurotrophins, the activity must:

• Force you to rely on different senses to do routine things.
• Put your brain on alert by doing something that makes a daily vision or activity stand out.
• Involve doing something routine in a totally different way.
• Get dressed with your eyes closed
• Enter your house with your eyes closed. What do you smell? What do you hear?
• Write with your non-dominant hand for half a day and increase to a full day
• Brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand
• Switch sides of the bed
• Turn a few items on your work surface (desk, craft table, shop table) upside down. See how they really stand out to you!
• Take a completely different route to work, church, etc.
• Do not speak during dinner. Use your eyes to ask for the potatoes!
• Close your eyes and choose fruit at the grocery store by touch

By doing routine things in non-routine ways (like brushing your teeth with a different hand or getting dressed with your eyes closed), you spark your physical senses and activate areas of your brain that may not have gotten much use in the past.

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