3 tips for staying sharp as you age, from the Harvard Health Letter

Our brains aren't immune from the aging process. Most of us expect some forgetfulness along with creakier joints. But while memory gets most of the attention, aging also affects the mental ability known as executive function, reports the March 2010 issue of the Harvard Health Letter.

Executive function is an umbrella term for the complex thinking required to make choices, plan, initiate action, and inhibit impulses. Executive function may affect everything from walking speed (at least in the elderly) and attention span to friendships and family ties. As we age, executive function may be more important than many kinds of memory for the tasks needed to live independently.

The good news is that the do's and don'ts of preserving executive function include many of the common precepts for staying healthy overall. The executive function to-do list includes exercise—older minds benefit enormously from busier bodies. High blood pressure harms both memory and executive function, and lack of sleep often scrambles executive function.

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