Quiz: Are You Keeping Your Brain Sharp?

Part 8 of our 8-part series: Take this fun quiz, and learn the Secrets of Healthy Americans, based on our national poll. And be sure to download our free Secrets of Healthy Americans reports at the end of this quiz.


Humana and Reader’s Digest polled the nation to bring you the Secrets of Healthy Americans, and we’re sharing the highlights with you in this 8-part series. Answer the questions here. Then see how you compare to the nationwide sample who took the Humana Reader’s Digest Healthy Habits Survey 2012—and get easy-to-follow advice to help you live a healthier life. 

And, as an exclusive bonus, download all 8 free parts of our Secrets of Healthy Americans Reports, including 200+ health tips on Fitness, Sleep, Germs, Protecting Yourself From Illness, Eating Right, Boosting Your Mood, Reducing Stress, and Sharpening Your Brain.

Which of the following is most important to you? And which is the next most important?

a) A close-knit family
b) Good health
c) Keeping your mind and memory working at their best

Here’s how you compare:

More than one-third of Americans (35 percent) in our poll think keeping their mind and memory working at their best is even more important than good health and family. And the percentage increases with age. Nearly half  (46 percent) of all seniors say they value their minds over health and family. Yet, despite the large number of people concerned about their minds, our poll also shows that many millions of Americans are not doing simple things to sharpen their brain power, including eating right and exercising their brains. 

Here’s an idea:

Aging does affect the human brain. Studies show that by age 60, your brain is probably taking in information two times slower than you did at 20. But listen to this. New research shows that you can avoid mental decline. Better yet, studies show that for most people, gradual mental decline can be stopped—and reversed! All it takes is a little physical and mental activity. Think of your brain as your ultimate muscle. If you exercise it at any age, you can strengthen it, as we’ll show you.

Did you have a memory lapse, such as misplacing your keys or forgetting someone’s name, in the past week?

a) Yes
b) No

Here’s how you compare:

Of course you did, remember? The fact is that everyone at every age forgets things from time to time.

Here’s an idea:

Forgetting things is a part of life. Not remembering where you put your keys or forgetting someone’s name tells you nothing about your brain’s sharpness or it’s age. Most commonly, forgetting something is merely a byproduct of your busy and sometimes hectic day. So don’t worry about a “senior moment” unless it is truly part of a significant and persistent pattern.

Seek help, however, if you experience these warning signs of serious memory loss:
A sudden decline in your ability to recall facts or tasks
Repeating phrases or stories in the same conversation
Trouble handling money
Asking the same question over and over
Getting lost in places you normally know well
Getting very confused about time or people

Did you skip breakfast this morning?

a) Yes
b) No

Here’s how you compare:

Half of all adults (46 percent) skipped breakfast this morning, most commonly to save a little time. That’s a bad move. Just to save a few minutes, they've shortchanged their brains.

Here’s an idea:
Research shows that when you skip breakfast your body tends to remain in sleep mode, marked by slower metabolism and mental sluggishness. After 10 or 12 hours without nourishment, your body needs fuel to increase your energy and your mental alertness. Studies show that eating breakfast increases your concentration and productivity.

No time for breakfast? Try this: Plan ahead the night before by loading the coffee machine, setting the table, and filling your cereal bowl. Or simply eat something already prepared, like yogurt topped with fresh berries or a bowl of microwave-heated soup—or even last night’s leftovers. (Some people love cold pasta!) The point is, eat something to wake up your brain.

How many drinks of alcohol did you consume yesterday? A can of beer, a glass of wine or a shot of liquor counts as one drink.

a) One
b) Two
c) Three to four
d) Five to seven
e) Eight or more
f) None

Here’s how you compare:

On any given day, around four out of five Americans (81 percent) don’t drink any alcohol. But those who do drink, on average, have two to three (2.4) drinks a day. 

Our poll and others show that, in general, the higher a person’s education and income, the more they drink. That’s the opposite of smoking statistics. The lower a person’s education and income, the more they smoke.

Here’s an idea:

Experts say that alcohol can be good—or bad. Many experts think that one drink a day is harmless, if not even healthy. However, many experts frown on consuming three or more drinks daily. Research has long linked heavy drinking with accelerated mental decline and profound memory loss.

If you feel you may be drinking more than you should, try making a rule for yourself, such as not drinking from Monday through Friday—and also not overindulging on weekends. If you find yourself breaking your own rules again and again, it may be time to seek professional help to change your drinking habits.

Are you a smoker?

a) A daily smoker
b) Occasional smoker
c) Former smoker
d) Have never been a smoker

Here’s how you compare:

Anti-smoking campaigns have been effective. Nearly six out of 10 adults (58 percent) say they have never become smokers, and another 22 percent say they have quit. But that still leaves around one of 10 (11 percent) who smoke every day, and another 3 percent who say they smoke occasionally. 

Here’s an idea:

If you are a smoker, you have heard many reasons about why you should quit. You probably already know that smoking restricts the flow of oxygen to your brain and raises your risk of suffering a stroke. But you may not know this research finding: Smoking doubles your odds of getting Alzheimer’s disease.

How many hours did you spend watching TV yesterday?

a) Less than an hour
b) One to two hours
c) Three to four hours
d) Five hours or more

Here’s how you compare:

Americans, on average, say they spend more than two and a half hours a day watching TV. Among seniors, one out of five (22 percent) spends five hours or more in front of the TV. As high as those figures sound, many experts believe people grossly underestimate how much time they spend glued to the tube.

Here’s an idea:

Research shows that watching TV—even educational programs— doesn't stimulate thought and brain connections as much as simply talking to a friend. Give your brain a break. Drop the remote and pick up the phone. A friendly 10-minute chat with a relative or pal will exercise your brain, force you to think and recall facts, and lift your spirits.

How many times in the past week did you do enough physical activity to increase your breathing or heart rate?

a) One to two
b) Three to four
c) Five to seven
d) More than seven
e) None

Here’s how you compare:

Nearly three out of 10 Americans (29 percent) did not move around enough to increase their breathing or heart rate even once in the past seven days. And overall adults got that physical activity fewer than three times (2.83) a week. In addition, half of all seniors in our poll who had no physical activity in the past seven days rated their health as only fair or poor.

Here’s an idea:

Experts recommend that people, no matter your age or condition, should try to exercise enough to raise their heart rate for 30 minutes at least three times every week. Even those with physical limitations can perform some kind of exercise. Beyond the other numerous health benefits, regular physical activity sparks the production of HGH, a hormone which boosts your ability to learn and remember. In addition, research shows that extended aerobic exercise can actually increase brain volume

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