Believe It or Not, Living In These Kind of Neighborhoods Could Prevent Your Brain from Aging

Brain games are well and good for a younger cranium, but here's how to turn it into a lifestyle.

This-One-Thing-Could-Prevent-Your-Brain-from-Aging—and-It’s-Not-Puzzles_586579454_Monkey-Business-ImagesMonkey Business Images/Shutterstock

Common knowledge says crossword puzzles and a few weird brain exercises are the No. 1 way to keep your brain young. But truth be told, the best brain sharpener may actually be where you live, science says.

In a small pilot study of 25 people, Kansas University researchers used a mapping software called Space Syntax to categorize “walkable” neighborhoods, or areas with many nearby places to visit and a complex layout. Their data showed that older adults who lived in more walkable neighborhoods scored higher on cognition tests. (Keep an eye out for the signs your brain is aging faster than you are.)

“This could be a relatively small contribution, but it could be important,” Watts says. “We can’t change our age, we can’t change whether we have genetic alleles that put us at risk, but we can change how we live.”

According to Watts, constantly navigating a more complex neighborhood could improve cognitive function for older, unimpaired adults. Plus, with more places to walk to and visit, older adults have more opportunities to socialize and exercise outside of the house. For people with Alzheimer’s, however, a complex neighborhood layout could pose a risk; walkability might backfire if dementia patients can get confused or lost easily.

Although “walkable” neighborhoods keep older brains sharp, experts warn against concluding that living in a walkable neighborhood can prevent Alzheimer’s. A bigger follow-up study is in the works to determine why, exactly, walkable neighborhoods have so many brain benefits, Watts says. Until then, you can keep your brain sharp and healthy later in life by doing these 10 things.

[Source: Fast Company]

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Brooke Nelson
Brooke Nelson is a researcher at PBS FRONTLINE in Boston, Massachusetts, and writes regularly about travel, health, and culture news for Reader’s Digest. Previously she was a staff writer at Reader's Digest. Her articles have also appeared on MSN, Business Insider, and Yahoo Finance, among other sites. She earned a BA in international relations from Hendrix College. Follow her on Twitter @BrookeTNelson.