50 ways to bust your noodle

One of the best ways to stay sharp is to exercise that muscle between your ears, research indicates. And discussions with some of the top scientists studying the brain reveal that you can work your noggin in many different ways, every day.

Here are 10 of them:

1. Snack on almonds and blueberries instead of a candy bar. As they lower blood sugar, healthy snacks can improve cognition. In this case, the omega-3s in the almonds and the antioxidants in the blueberries can keep your brain functioning correctly.

2. Ballroom dance like the stars. Dancing is a brain-power activity. How so? Learning new moves activates brain motor centers that form new neural connections. Dancing also calms the brain’s stress response.

3. Love the crunch of croutons on your salad? Try walnuts instead. Omega-3s in walnuts have been found to improve mood and calm inflammation that may lead to brain-cell death. They also replace lost melatonin, which is necessary for healthy brain functioning.

 4. Take your dog — or yourself — for a walk. Walking for just 20 minutes a day can lower blood sugar. That helps stoke blood flow to the brain, so you think more clearly.

5. Add Chinese club moss to your daily vitamin regimen. Taking less than 100 micrograms of the herb daily may protect your brain’s neurotransmitters and keep synapses firing correctly, tests suggest. But this herb is powerful, so check with your doctor for drug interactions.

6. Volunteer to answer questions at the library, arboretum, museum, or hospital. Playing tour guide forces you to learn new facts and think on your feet, helping to form new neural pathways in your brain. What’s more, interacting with others can ease stress that depletes memory.

7. Grab a video-game joystick. New video games, such as the Wii and Nintendo DS, offer brain teasers that make you learn the computer’s interface as you master the brain games. That’s a double boost to the formation of new neural connections and to response time and memory.

8. Leave your comfort zone. Getting good at sudoku? Time to move on. Brain teasers don’t form new neural connections once you’ve mastered them. So try something that’s opposite your natural skills: If you like numbers, learn to draw. If you love language, try logic puzzles.

9. Get support for stressors. You may love your ailing family member, but the chronic stress of facing the situation alone can shrink your brain’s memory center. Interacting with others activates many parts of the brain — and learning new ways of coping forms new neural connections.

10. When you look around, really look. Stare straight ahead, and now — without moving your eyes — see if you can make out what’s at the periphery. Do this regularly and you’ll stimulate the neural and spatial centers of the brain, which can atrophy as you age.

Tea for teeth

If you want to keep your teeth healthy, drink more green tea and forget about soft drinks — particularly those containing citrus flavorings and sugar.

A study published in the July/August 2008 issue of General Dentistry found that citric acids in fruit juices and soft drinks are more damaging to the protective enamel of your teeth than hydrochloric or sulfuric acid (battery acid).

What’s more, the average 20-ounce soft drink contains 17 teaspoons of sugar, which can only worsen matters in your mouth.

You would be much better off drinking green tea, the study authors conclude, because it has no corrosive effect. As far as your teeth are concerned, the safest beverages are water, milk and tea. If you must drink acidic beverages, do it quickly and through a straw, advises a spokesman for the Academy of General Dentistry. And make sure that the tea you drink is free of the ingredients that prepackaged teas so often contain: sugar and citric acid.

(With permission from Dr. Andrew Weil.)

Weekly activities at The Den

Gym Walk. Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays at 11:15 a.m.; keep up your cardiovascular system

Canasta. Mondays at 1 p.m. in the lounge

Meditation for Healing. Tuesdays at 1 p.m. Sarah Barbara hosts the weekly Meditation for Healing program and will teach you how to meditate and reap the healing benefits of the practice.

Dance for Health. On Wednesdays at 10 a.m. Karma Raley, the dance instructor, enjoys sharing her love of dance and blends basic ballet and modern jazz with yoga awareness to create a full body routine which makes it possible to work out to the degree you want and/or need to. Wear loose comfortable clothing and bring a mat or towel. This program is free.

Geezers. Are you a geezer? For stimulating conversation and an opportunity to meet and greet other geezers, drop by for coffee on Friday mornings at 9 a.m.

Silver Foxes Den piano

If you love to play the piano, and miss having an audience, we have a piano at the Silver Foxes Cultural Center just waiting for your fingers to tickle the ivories. Drop by any Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Friday between 10:30 a.m. and noon and bring the joy of music to local seniors. For more information, call 264-2167.

Monthly meetings at The Den

Alzheimer’s Support Group. Elaine Stumpo, regional director for SW Alzheimer’s Association, will host a monthly gathering for individuals who are supporting loved ones living with Alzheimer’s. Learn how to be supportive of someone with memory loss. The meeting will take place in the Silver Foxes Den every fourth Wednesday at 1 p.m.

ASI board meeting. Archuleta Seniors, Inc. (ASI) meets the second Friday of every month at 1 p.m.; this board also serves as the Local Council on Aging and supports many of the activities at The Den. In addition, it is also a non-profit organization providing support to seniors who need additional financial help in areas such as medical needs. See the membership packet available at The Den for further information.

Special events

Tasty holiday appetizers provided by Archuleta Seniors, Inc. will set the holiday festivities in motion for our annual “Give a Gift, Get a gift,” on Friday, Dec.19, from 10 a.m. to noon. John Graves, along with other musicians, will add the special touch to this holiday season with festive holiday music at noon. To participate in the “Give a Gift, Get a Gift” bring a new gift ($10 or less), label it either for a man, woman or unisex and place it under the tree; we’ll begin our gift exchange at approximately 12:30.

Four the Good Times. Local barbershop quartet, Four the Good Times, will perform holiday songs at the senior center on Tuesday, Dec. 23, at 12:30 p.m. These four ladies have been singing in Pagosa musical groups for nearly a decade and love to blend their voices in traditional barbershop harmony. Nancy Smith sings tenor, Julie Loar sings lead, Paula McFaddin is the baritone and Pat French rounds out the foursome on bass.

Meals on Wheels

Archuleta County Senior Services is now offering frozen meals for once-a-week delivery to reach those who are rurally isolated and unable to participate in our regular route of the Meals on Wheels program. The suggested donation for these meals is $3 each. To find out if you qualify for this program, or for more information, call 264-2167.

ASI memberships

This is one of the best deals in Pagosa. Help out seniors and save money at local businesses with the discount card. Archuleta Seniors Inc. is selling annual memberships for folks 55 and olderat The Den for $5 on Mondays and Fridays from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Also, the ASI board would like for folks to know that there computers at the Silver Foxes Den are now up and available for your use. The 2009 memberships will be available at a later date.

Presentations and activities

You name it and we will do our best to make it happen, within reason that is. We are interested in what topics you are interested in, or topics or activities that you would like to provide for us.

It’s all about you, so give us your ideas.

Menu

Suggested donation for older adults age 60-plus and kids 12 and under are $3; guests $5. Our meal program is partially funded through the Older Americans Act, United Way, Archuleta County, Town of Pagosa Springs and other contributions and grants. These funds help support the cost of the meal which is approximately $6. Please note our menu is subject to change. The salad bar opens at 11:30 a.m. with lunch served at noon.

Friday, Dec. 19 — French dip, oven browned potatoes, mixed veggies, strawberry applesauce.

Monday, Dec. 22 — Chicken noodles, mixed veggies, baked squash, apricot pineapple compote, dinner roll.

Tuesday, Dec. 23 — Corned beef, parsley butter new potatoes, cabbage with carrots, rye bread and sugar cookies.

Wednesday, Dec. 24 — Baked ham with raisin sauce, green bean amandine, cranberry mold, whole wheat roll.

Thursday, Dec. 25 — Closed.

Friday, Dec. 26 — Closed.

The staff at the Silver Foxes Den Senior Center expresses its sincere gratitude to the Mountain View Homemakers for their generous donation; your kindness and thoughtfulness is greatly appreciated.

The Silver Foxes Den will close at 1 p.m. on Dec. 24, and will be closed Dec. 25 and 26. We at The Den would like to wish you and your family a happy holiday.

Quote of the Week: “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen” — Winston Churchill.