Social butterflies: For many people, interacting with other people gives great sustenance in terms of brain health. We are a highly social species, but you don’t have to be a social butterfly to siphon off the rewards. Joining a book club, a community group, a choir or a sports team are all ways of upping your game if you find it difficult to raise your share of social interaction. Or you could decide to have a regular coffee morning with a friend. It turns out that social interaction is like a pungent fertiliser to your brain. It will stimulate your brain cells to grow new connections and strengthens those already formed. New cells also spring to life in key memory areas of the brain, something that will stand to you. Why not arrange a regular time to meet with friends and go to a play or watch a film together?
Prof Yaakov Stern talks about cognitive reserve and the link between leisure activities, education and social networks
Numbers: Getting involved in more social activities can be rewarding in itself, but it can also lower your risk of developing dementia. Taking part in lots of different leisure activities was found in one study to be associated with a 38% lower risk of developing dementia in people aged over 65. Activities included going to clubs, visiting friends or being visited, playing cards and community or volunteer work. People possibly did not realise that, not only were they having fun, they were also helping to hoard a larger deposit of healthy brain cells and connections that may protect against dementia.
Name of the game: Just ten minutes of social interaction can greatly increase your brain performance. And it might surprise you to hear that this kind of simple social interaction with other people can deliver greater benefits than more widely practiced brain workouts like playing chess or solving difficult crossword puzzles. In Sweden, researchers interviewed over 1,000 people, with no known cognitive impairments, about their social networks. Three years on, 176 people were diagnosed with dementia. Remarkably it was found that those who lived alone, were single and reported little or no close social ties had a 60% increased risk of dementia. They were far more at risk than those who had close social ties and those who were married or living with someone. Staying connected is a winner when it comes to brain health.
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