June may be Brain Awareness Month but your health is too important to put off.

This weekend I was reading an article about early testing for Alzheimer’s Disease and I learned that the brain is like a grape — if you leave it out to dry, you’ll wind up with a raisin (analogy from the article). I don’t know about you, but even though I like raisins, I don’t want my brain ending up like one. As romantic as the tortured artist image is, I think I’ll do my best work with a fully functional brain, thank you very much.

Image by samarttiw, courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
Image by samarttiw, courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

And I have reason to be concerned, too. Alzheimer’s and dementia run in the family, along with a cocktail mix of other mental illnesses. My genetics are a bit like Russian roulette: if each potential illness was a bullet placed in the 6-barrel chamber, and if n is the odds that I don’t end up developing one later in life when the ‘trigger’ is pulled, well, the odds are definitely not in my favor.

So what do I do?

For the most part, I try not to worry about it. “Que sera, sera,” as Doris Day sings. I pray sometimes. Based on that article that I’ve read this weekend, there is something concrete I should begin doing more earnestly: exercise the brain.

Learn a foreign language.

Don’t get me wrong; I do like to play puzzle games and word searches on my Kindle Fire, solitaire or Spider Solitaire (critical thinking), memory games, hidden object searches and the like. But these are just the occasional pastimes when I’ve got the downtime and no aim to fill it. Post-article, I began thinking that I need a more concrete goal.

What is something I can do to help me exercise my brain on a long-term basis? One of the examples was “Learn a foreign language.”  That got me to thinking, how do I start?

Do I get one of those kits with the cd’s you listen to, the dictionary and the phrase book? Should I take a college class? Are there any classes online? Rosetta Stone (too expensive?) What about that new Mango Languages subscription I now have through my local library? Bingo! Now I just have to pick which one (more on that in another post).

Read non-fiction.

“[…] and more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.” (Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen).

I also need to start reading more non-fiction. I know, I’m cringing internally just typing it. It’s not that I don’t like non-fiction, it’s fine, but it’s just so… cut and dry.  I need to find a way to make reading non-fiction fun. If you have any suggestions, hit me up with your ideas, please!

To start, I’ve picked up some biographies on a childhood favorite poet. Ten, to be exact. Please, I have no intention of reading them cover to cover. I plan on flipping through them and looking for fun facts about the poet I didn’t know and just try to absorb while browsing. I’ve also picked up a book on improving your memory.

Develop memory retention.

Did you know that the mnemonic for remembering the heads on Mount Rushmore is “We Just Like Rushmore”?

Fun (but kinda sad) fact: When I tried using that to name the Presidents with no prior study, here’s what I came up with: “Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Reagan”. Yep, I just skipped the entire Teddy Roosevelt administration.

I’ll wait for you to finish laughing.

Okay, so I’ve got work to do. What about you? Are you up for a challenge?

Challenge a friend.

I’m going to challenge YOU to try something new to keep your brain healthy, and I want you to comment and let me know what you’ll be doing.  Let’s help each other, yeah? I’ll post what self-improvement steps I’m taking for brain health, and I hope you’ll do the same. Early detection people. An ounce of prevention’s worth a pound of cure, and all that.

I’ll post on Mondays as part of my Fieldnotes series on what I’m learning, so follow along and let’s see what we learn together. Have a great week guys!

2 thoughts on “Brain Health & Disease Prevention

  1. We also have dementia and mental illness in our family (along with migraines and diabetes, which I think are linked). I’ll have to check out Mango Languages — I tried an intro Pimsleur language course and liked it, but the full course is also expensive (and you lose any skill you have if you aren’t practicing). I take piano lessons and do Lumosity (online brain games). I love to read nonfiction on genetics, astronomy and history as research for my fiction … I can so easily get lost in the research!! I’ve gotten a couple of the Great Courses audiobooks and liked them, too (easy to “read” while driving).

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  2. That’s what I’ve discovered about decent language programs. Somewhere, you’re going to have to shell out the $$. Thanks for mentioning Lumosity — I haven’t tried that yet but I will!

    I know what you mean about research. It’s soooo easy to spend hours lost in a subject that’s fascinating, isn’t it? I haven’t tried the Great Courses yet but I did check out one once to browse those books they include. What an awesome cliff notes-like version! Do you enjoy the piano lessons? I haven’t done piano in AGES. 😦

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