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04.13 - April

Today's health: Women and men
Great news: We get smarter with age

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By Arleen Fitzgerald, L.I.C.S.W.
(Click for author bios in About us)

We really do get wiser as we get older.

We may have our share of minor memory slips. But, research also shows that our brains add to their abilities over time.

How the brain gains
It turns out that your brain continues to nurture new neurons, or nerve cells, as you age. At the same time, older neurons regroup in response to what you encounter in life. And, as you store those experiences over the years, they add up in wisdom.

As a result, you may gain ground when it comes to:
  • Verbal skills
  • Math abilities
  • Abstract reasoning — the ability to analyze information and solve complex problems
Because of this improved brainpower, you may find that you're a better communicator and problem-solver on the job — and at home.

Changes in the brain can improve your emotional well-being, too. As the years go by, you may become:
  • Calmer and less prone to anxiety
  • Better able to control your emotions
  • More positive in your outlook
  • More confident and better at navigating social situations
3 ways to fill your think tank
Even with the benefits of age, it's normal for some abilities to decrease slightly. For instance, your short-term memory may be less reliable — and multitasking may not come as easily.

But, you can take steps to help your mind stay as sharp as possible. Here are three good brain boosters:

1. Be active. Regular exercise* can help keep your body and brain healthy. See "A wise move: Exercise your intellect."

2. Be social. Interacting with others helps keep your mind engaged — and improves mood and memory.

3. Be a lifelong learner. Learning triggers the growth of new brain cells — and makes more connections between them.

*For safety's sake, talk with your doctor before significantly increasing your activity level.
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Quick tip

Believe in your brain
We've all heard the jokes about "senior moments." But, don't buy into those negative stereotypes. Researchers have found that having positive beliefs about aging can help keep memory sharp as we age. So, remember: You are what you think.

A wise move: Exercise your intellect

Physical activity is one of the best ways you can protect your brain. In fact, studies show it's even better than social or mental activities. Why? Our brains naturally shrink with age, which can lead to problems with memory and thinking. Exercise helps slow this process.