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Holiday tips

Make your holiday family road trip a brain fitness session

Vicky Karantzavelou - 06 December 2012, 10:23

Switch off electronics and start talking in order to maintain brain health during long car holiday trips, is what specialists suggest.

SEATTLE - "Turn off the electronics on the ride to Grandmother's house; people who isolate themselves have a higher risk of developing dementia," says Dr. Paul Nussbaum, director of brain health for Emeritus Senior Living and clinical neuropsychologist and adjunct professor of neurological surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. "Face-to-face interaction and maintaining your family network are beneficial for the brain. So shut off the entertainment devices and spend time talking to each other."

Nussbaum emphasizes that long holiday car trips provide an excellent opportunity for a brain-health session for the whole family. Dr. Nussbaum offers the following tips:

  • Create stories:  One family member can start telling a tale and the others can take turns continuing and finishing it. Engaging in creativity is an important brain workout.
  • Invent games:  It turns out the traditional car game of counting license plates is good for the brain, because there is a link between mental stimulation and reduced risk of dementia.
  • Get exercise: Pull off the road every couple of hours and have everyone stretch and even do some jumping jacks. Physical activity lowers the likelihood of dementia.
  • Avoid road food: Pack sandwiches with lean meat and food rich in anti-oxidants, such as apples, grapes, cantaloupe and berries, for brain-healthy lunch and snacks on the road. A recent study found markers of Alzheimer's in mice who consumed a diet with high levels of fat similar to that of fast food.
"The brain is highly dynamic, constantly reorganizing, and shaped by environmental input," Dr. Nussbaum says. "So engaging in cognitive fitness on road trips is a great way to put your family on the road to better brain health and lowered risk of dementia."

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