Forget crossword puzzles, here are other ways to exercise the brain

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WATCH: According to an aging expert and author, the way to exercise your brain is by challenging it with something new – Sep 21, 2017

While crossword puzzles and other puzzles are great ways to stimulate the brain, some experts suggest ping-pong instead.

With World Alzheimer’s Day on Thursday, a day to raise awareness of a disease that 564,000 Canadians are currently living with, it’s also a good reminder on how to keep your brain active.

Dr. James Meschino, aging expert and author of The Meschino Optimal Living Program: Healthy Aging Naturally, says if you’ve been playing crossword puzzles your whole life, for example, it’s something your brain gets used to doing.

“It’s not going to help as you get older,” he tells Global News. “Force [the brain] to do things you haven’t done before, the best thing to do is to combine body and brain movement together.”
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Alternative activities to try

Meschino says some great ways to exercise your brain include things like ping-pong, learning how to play a new instrument, learning a new language or aerobic classes.

He is also a fan of taking dance classes in your ’50s. “It drives new neural pathways to the brain and keeps building new cells,” he says.

He says sleep is also important, even though it’s not exercising. Business Insider notes one study found while we sleep, the brain removes dangerous proteins it makes during the day.

“While brains are unusually active during sleep, they’re actually going through a beneficial process that makes you smarter, perkier, and healthier during your waking hours,” neuroscientist Jeff Iliff notes.

Alzheimer’s in Canada

According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, there are 25,000 new cases of dementia diagnosed every year. In 15 years, over 900,000 Canadians will be living with the disease.

The disease is irreversible and destroys brain cells, the society adds, and deteriorates a person’s memory. The site notes it is not a normal part of aging.

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“Alzheimer’s disease is a fatal disease that eventually affects all aspects of a person’s life: how they think, feel, and act. Each person is affected differently. It is difficult to predict symptoms, the order in which they will appear, or the speed of their progression,” the society notes.

And while there is no cure for the disease and no guarantee to prevent dementia altogether, the society adds brain health should be on everyone’s radar.

Eating well, being physically active and reducing stress are all good ways to work the brain.

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Meschino says other lifestyle recommendations include checking in on your blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels, maintaining a healthy body weight, and taking the right supplements and minerals suggested by your doctor.

“Avoid known brain-damaging substances. Don’t drink alcohol. Alcohol kills brain cells. If you drink then have no more than three alcoholic drinks per week. Don’t smoke. Free radicals in cigarette smoke cause brain oxidation and increase risk of cerebrovascular disease,” he writes.

“It’s about how you allow your brain to age,” he says. “It’s always important to challenge yourself.”

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