Stay sharp: Exercises for the mind

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 14 more ways:

24. Top rolled oats with cinnamon for a brainy breakfast. The oats scrub plaques from your brain arteries, while a chemical in cinnamon is good for keeping your blood sugar in check—which can improve neurotransmission.

25. Turn up the tunes. TV may provide a lot of stimuli, but watching too much can dull brain transmission. Instead, spend an afternoon listening to your favorite music. Music can lower stress hormones that inhibit memory and increase feelings of well-being that improve focus.

26. Curry up. The active ingredient in Indian curry, turmeric, contains resveratrol, the same powerful antioxidant that makes red wine good for brain health. Eat curry once a week, or sprinkle it on salads, to protect brain cells from harmful free radicals.

27. Take a food break. Research shows that people who fast one day a week or month unlock a unique form of blood glucose that helps the brain more efficiently transmit information. Then break your fast with brain-healthy blueberries, walnuts, and maybe a glass of red wine.

28. Replace the olive oil in your favorite vinaigrette with walnut oil. Walnut oil, which is chock-full of brain-healthy omega-3s, cuts brain inflammation, a precursor to many cognitive problems. It also keeps oxygen-rich blood flowing to your brain by thinning the blood slightly.

29. Go wild with fish. While fish is generally good for you, the metals that accumulate in farmed fish like tilapia may contribute to cognitive impairments. So when you’re shopping, check that the fish is from the wild, not domestically raised, and stick with heart- and brain-healthy fish like salmon and sardines.

30. Redecorate and redesign your environment. Plant new flowers in front of your house. Redecorate the kitchen. Rearrange your closets and drawers. Replace the candles in your living room with some that have a different scent. Making such changes can alter motor pathways in the brain and encourage new cell growth.

31. Choose a side. Talk sports, business, or politics. If you can do it without getting angry, which raises the memory-hindering hormone cortisol, engaging in a good debate can form new neural pathways and force you to think quickly and formulate your thoughts clearly.

32. Sleep. Shut-eye isn’t a luxury. It’s when your brain consolidates memories. Poor sleep, caused by medical conditions, worry, depression, or insomnia, can interfere with your rest. So treat yourself to relaxing scents like vanilla before bed. They raise the chemical dopamine and reduce cortisol, a stress hormone.

33. Check your neck. It may sound crazy, but a clot in your neck can stunt your memory by preventing enough blood and oxygen from getting to your brain. At your next checkup, ask your doctor to use the other side of his stethoscope to ensure that all’s clear in your carotid artery—the main one in your neck.

34. Take a mental picture. Connect names with faces by creating mental images that trick your mind into remembering. For instance, remember Mr. Bender with the curly hair by imagining him bent over, with his curly hair facing you.

35. Read the news. Keeping up with the latest not only activates the memory part of the brain but also gives you something to talk about with friends and family. That kind of socializing can activate multiple parts of your brain and encourage cell growth.

36. Turn off the TV and pick up an instrument. Frequently tickling the ivories or blowing a horn — especially if you’re trying to master it — is associated with lower dementia risks. What’s more, it eliminates boredom, a brain state that can cause some thinking skills to atrophy.

37. Join a book club. Pick up a good book to cut down on brain-withering boredom. Frequent reading is associated with reduced risk of dementia. And meeting new people forces new neural connections. Besides, you might enjoy the book.

Den closures

The Silver Foxes Den follows the school district snow closures. To find out if The Den is closed, tune into KWUF 106.3 FM or 1400 AM for information or visit www.pagosasun.com.

Special events

Sittercize. Learn the benefits of sittercize with Karen Richardson, occupational therapist, on Wednesday, Jan. 7, at 12:45 p.m. Learn how to strengthen, increase flexibility, improve circulation and range of motion from the comfort and security of your own chair. Sittercize is beneficial to everyone but is especially good for those suffering from bad knees or other physical limitations. Come “sit” and be “fit.”

ASI memberships

Time to renew or buy your 2009 ASI membership? Beginning Monday, Jan. 5, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. new memberships will be sold at The Senior Center on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays for $5 each. All 2008 memberships expired Dec. 31. Folks 55 and older will benefit with discounts from many local businesses, including the local hot springs. This is one of the best deals in Pagosa.

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 maybe you have a topic or activity that you would like to provide for us. It’s all about you, so give us your ideas.

Medical shuttles, non-senior meals

Beginning today, Jan. 1, there will be an increase in our medical shuttle charge. The price will now be $35 for service. Our non-senior meals will increase to $6.

Menu

Suggested donation for older adults age 60-plus and kids 12 and under $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, Jan. 2 — Closed.

Monday, Jan. 5 — Arroz con Pollo.

Tuesday, Jan. 6 — Crunchy baked fish, whipped potatoes, mixed veggies, pineapple/mandarin, roll.

Wednesday, Jan. 7 — Chicken fajita w/lettuce and tomato, cilantro rice, cabbage, fruit.

Thursday, Jan. 8 — Meal served in Arboles.

Friday, Jan. 9 — Beef barley soup, crackers, sesame broccoli, apricot/pineapple, roll.

Please note: Archuleta County Cultural Center Newsletter is available on Archuleta County’s Web site, www.archuletacounty.org/Seniors/seniors.asp.