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Facts for All Ages

Two Heads are Better Than One


In past articles, I have emphasized quality sleep, a nutritious diet, physical exercise, stress management and brain challenges all contribute to optimal brain health. However, social interactions and emotional support are equally important in enhancing brain function.

While people may vary on the amount of time they spend with others, all humans need to have social connections. Members of the Global Council on Brain Health agree that staying connected with others helps support thinking skills and may slow cognitive decline in later life – and they recommend people remain socially active as they age. Dr. Claudia Kawas, a neurologist at the University of California, Irvine, states "there is quite a bit of evidence now suggesting that the more people you have contact with, in your own home or outside, the better you do. Interaction with people regularly, even strangers, uses easily as much brain power as doing puzzles."

Having a social life - getting out and having conversations with others, laughing and sharing - is mentally beneficial. Ways to maintain those social ties can include social activities like playing cards, traveling, dancing, volunteering, and taking a class. Going to the movies with friends, attending church or social/civic clubs, or just going out for dinner all help us stay engaged with others and can also be considered good examples of brain exercise. There are several studies that have shown those with higher levels of social activity have less cognitive decline than those who are not as socially engaged. An article by the Alzheimer's Association states that research has found that leisure activities that combine physical, mental and social activity are the most likely to prevent dementia or at least, will help maintain brain vitality.

For those who may live in more isolated areas or have trouble getting out of their homes due to mobility and sensory issues, the use of technology to connect more with others could be a consideration. Communicating by e-mail, video chat, social networking and online communities can expand communication and boost the person's sense of independence and accomplishment by learning new skills. They may also consider a non-human option such as a pet. Pets can be valuable companions and are good conversation starters when in public.

What are your favorite social activities? If you are actively looking for new ways to connect with others, make sure the social activity is meaningful to you. And remember – two heads are better than one!

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