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Use It or Lose It

The adage "Use It or Lose It" applies to several areas in medicine, from your sex life to other physical strengths.  Several studies over the past few years have suggested that using your brain on a regular basis is critically important for maintaining your mental muscle.

Brain researchers have found that most people can keep their mental capacities from declining just by doing simple things on a regular basis, such as reading the newspaper, playing chess, maintaining their social interactions, or attending lectures or performances.  Physical exercise has also been shown to improve blood supply to the brain and is important for maintaining cognitive function.  Stress reduction techniques and adequate sleep habits are essential for keeping a clear-thinking head.  If you feel that you've slowed down mentally, a visit to your doctor's can be helpful to identify underlying medical problems such as depression or thyroid disease which can cause mental impairments.  And while there are some medicines  which may delay the onset of dementia, many drugs have side effects which can actually slow mental function.  The biggest offender, of course, is alcohol, but over-the-counter medicines such as antihistamines (commonly used to treat allergies and colds) should not be overlooked. 

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Created: 8/1/2001  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.
Reviewed: 6/30/2003  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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