Everyone knows your body needs exercise to stay in peak shape. But did you know your brain does too? Physical exercise
is essential to the health of both your body and brain, but you can do even more to keep your brain in shape. Challenging your brain with cognitive exercises is another great way to keep your mind sharp.
Chad Yucus, MD, Neurology at NorthShore, answers questions and shares some ways to give your brain the workout it needs to stay sharp at any
Do brain teasers and puzzles actually help to keep your mind sharp? Are certain types of puzzles and activities better than others?
There are many types of cognitive activities that help to keep the brain sharp, involving word games and number games, such as crossword puzzles, Sudoku, computer games and board/card games. There is no strategy that is particularly better than another, but
learning a new hobby, game and/or language is a good way to keep the brain sharp.
Why would a new hobby be helpful?
Learning a new skill or starting a new hobby that requires skills you don’t typically use can be helpful because it challenges you to keep learning and function in a way that is not familiar. It’s a great way to stay mentally active whatever your age.
Who benefits from cognitive exercises and activities?
How do you keep your brain healthy to prevent memory loss?
There is no strategy to truly prevent memory loss, but there are strategies to delay the effects of any pathology (changes caused by disease) that may be developing in the brain. This is based upon building a cognitive reserve before any problems begin to
develop. These strategies include the cognitive exercises above, physical exercise, social activities—spending time with friends, planning events—regular sleep patterns and a low-cholesterol Mediterranean diet.
How much time should you devote each day to cognitive exercise?
Think of it in terms of regular physical exercise. Your brain and the rest of your body need about the same each day, approximately 30-60 minutes of cognitive and physical exercise every day is a good place to start.
How do you exercise your brain?
Music can improve mood, decrease pain and anxiety, and stimulate emotional expression. Music therapy has a long history
but the first formal use of music therapy began in World War II, when hospitals used music to help soldiers suffering from “shell shock” or what would later be diagnosed as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Music therapy can and is being used by board
certified music therapists to enhance conventional treatment for a variety of illnesses and disease processes – from anxiety, depression and stress to the management of pain and enhancement of functioning after degenerative neurologic disorders such as dementia,
Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and Parkinson’s disease.
Heather Hodorowski, MS, MT-BC, LPC, Music Therapy Coordinator at NorthShore, highlights some of the benefits music has
on health and well-being:
Has music therapy benefited you or someone in your family?
It’s one thing for an elderly relative, friend or loved one to be forgetful from time to time, but if you begin
to notice changes in memory, thinking and problem solving you may want to consider getting him or her screened for Alzheimer’s disease. While the progression of this condition may vary from person to person, there are tell-tale signs to help determine diagnosis.
Felise Zollman, MD, Neurologist with NorthShore, recommends looking for the following warning signs for those who may be suffering from Alzheimer’s disease (AD):
While it can be normal to have any of these problems occur once in a while, they become concerning if they begin to affect the person’s daily life.
Along with warning signs, Dr. Zollman also outlines some of the most common risk factors for developing this condition, including:
Do you know someone with Alzheimer’s disease? What recommendations would you have to others who are just finding out someone they know has this disease?