Use it or lose it, say the experts

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Professor Ann Edwards, clinical psychologist at Rhodes University, said there were huge variations in the way people age cognitively. "Some individuals decline rapidly as they age, others not so fast.

Individuals who seem well protected are those with a high level of education or a high IQ. "People who remain physically and mentally active enjoy a strong protection factor. It really is a question of use it or lose it," she said. Studies show that we do not necessarily become less intelligent as we grow older. Some brain function can even improve.

The ageing brain creates new thinking patterns and cross-indexes existing systems as never before. Some people find that they can process information better than when they were younger. According to the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing at the University of New South Wales in Australia, brain training involves doing repeated mental exercises that require different cognitive ability, such as memory, attention and problem-solving.

Engaging leisure activities with mental, social and physical components can keep the brain healthy. 'Frying something new stimulates the brain, particularly if it means learning new information, skills and involves practice.

Examples include: Cognitive stimulation such as discussion groups, building puzzles and doing brain-teasers; Learning to dance, do t'ai chi or speak a new language; Travelling, learning to play a musical instrument or having an artistic pastime; Learning bridge or chess and joining a new social group or a volunteer organisation; and Learning to use electronic devices such as cellphones and computers.

Article Source: SUNDAY TIMES