By Ron Stock
Daily and vigorous exercise of your brain is a one of the best medicine you can give yourself to slow the onset of dementia or, worse, Alzheimer’s disease. Do you ever forget where you filed an important customer policy or where you put your car keys? Do you then ask yourself, “Geez, am I getting dementia or, worse, Alzheimer’s?” The answer is you are probably not getting dementia, as only 3 percent of the population ages 65-74 become afflicted with dementia, but that number jumps to 47 percent for those over the age of 85.
Unfortunately, the older we get changes do take place in our aging brain. Our memory slowly begins to decline beginning at age 40; a 75-year-old takes up to four times longer to process information than a 20-year-old. As we age, our intelligence is a little slower solving problems. Yes, we sometimes forget where we put the car keys!
But there are also some early indications to worse problems: increasing forgetfulness, like more than once a week forgetting where the car keys are or forgetting to take your daily blood pressure or cholesterol pill. Or, asked what you had for breakfast, you cannot recall you had eggs and bacon. Difficulty in following a conversation, making correct change or remembering how to drive home from a familiar place — a park, a hardware store or a favorite restaurant — are also signs that you should exercise your medical benefits and make an appointment with a neurologist.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s are chronic diseases with no cure, but their progression can slow through healthy living. What can you do to help delay memory issues, including dementia and Alzheimer’s? Doctors will suggest eating healthy, plenty of vegetables and fruit, lots of broccoli. Maintain an active social life and stay stress-free (impossible during Open Enrollment and up against a quota!). Also get plenty of exercise for your body and your brain.
John E. Morley, MD, director of St. Louis University’s Division of Geriatric Medicine, recommends 10 brain exercises to delay dementia and Alzheimer’s.
- Test your recall. Make a list — of grocery items, things to do, or anything else that comes to mind — and memorize it. An hour or so later, see how many you can recall. Make the list as challenging as possible for better mental stimulation.
- Let the music play. Learn to play a musical instrument or join a choir. Studies show that learning something new and complex over a more extended period is ideal for the aging mind.
- Do the math in your head. Figure out problems without the aid of pencil, paper, or computer; you can make this more difficult — and athletic — by walking at the same time.
- Take a cooking class. Learn how to cook a new cuisine. Cooking uses many of your senses: smell, touch, sight, and taste, which all involve different parts of the brain.
- Learn a foreign language. Speaking and hearing foreign languages stimulate your brain. What’s more, a rich vocabulary reduces the risk for cognitive decline.
- Create word pictures. Visualize the spelling of a word in your head, then try and think of any other words that begin (or end) with the same two letters.
- Draw a map from memory. After returning home from visiting a new place, try to draw a map of the area; repeat this exercise each time you visit a new location.
- Challenge your taste buds. When eating, try to identify individual ingredients in your meal, including subtle herbs and spices.
- Refine your hand-eye abilities. Take up a new hobby that involves fine-motor skills, such as knitting, drawing, painting, assembling a puzzle, etc.
- Learn a new sport. Start doing an athletic exercise that utilizes both mind and body, such as yoga, golf or tennis.
Insurance agents who play golf, you could knock out several of these brain exercises while stealing an afternoon on the links! While you are exercising (golf), guess the ingredients in the hoagie sandwich (taste buds) from the fairway shop. Look at your scorecard and mentally add up everyone’s score (math). Picture the layout and yardage on the holes you shot birdie (mental map). Count in Spanish from your recently acquired Berlitz program (language) the money exchanging hands for lost Nassau bet.
See, it’s not hard to exercise your brain! Why not start today?
Ron Stock, president of Beta Benefits, FMO Medicare Health Plans, with over 25 years in Medicare, also conducts broker education unit (CEU) classes, “How to Start Your Own Agency” and “5 Must-Do’s for Selling Your Agency.” Beta Benefits also offers Nippylinks (nippylinks.com), a mobile app for phone and tablet, with the broker’s UserID and Passwords embedded for quick access to providers’ broker portal. Questions? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or Beta Benefits’ sales and marketing manager Bronson Lee, Bronson@betabenefits.com.