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You can't buy good health but you can buy good health information. Check out these newly released Special Health Reports from Harvard Medical School:

Mental activity is key to healthy brain aging, from the Harvard Men's Health Watch

What's the best way to maintain mental skills and memory power as you get older? Just as exercise and physical activity prompt muscles to grow stronger, mental exercise keeps thinking skills and memory in tone, according to the November 2012 Harvard Men's Health Watch.

Does playing solitaire or Angry Birds qualify as mental exercise? "If it's too easy, it's not helping you," explains Dr. Anne Fabiny, chief of geriatrics at Cambridge Health Alliance and an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Here are some of Dr. Fabiny's suggestions for exercising the brain:

Be a lifelong learner: Mental activity over a lifetime builds dense networks of connections between brain cells. Experience and learning build and maintain these connections. When you learn something new, you keep this "cognitive reserve" in good shape.

Strain your brain: When it comes to cognitive reserve, mentally challenging tasks have the biggest impact. Taking on an endeavor like learning a new language can be a difficult investment, but the payoff is greater.

Get uncomfortable: Getting out of your comfort zone from time to time challenges your mental skills. An example of this is traveling to a city that you haven't been to before, which forces you to navigate unfamiliar surroundings.

Be social: Social isolation, aging researchers have discovered, puts people at risk of losing some of the brain reserves they have built up over a lifetime. Working as a volunteer in a social setting allows you to have contact with a variety of people and puts you in new situations.

Read the full-length article: "Healthy brain aging: No strain, no gain"

Also in this issue of the Harvard Men's Health Watch

  • Should you take a statin even if your cholesterol is normal?
  • On call: Special Report: 'Natural' cold relief
  • Healthy brain aging: No strain, no gain
  • 20-second CT scan cuts lung cancer deaths, but is it right for you?
  • Breathe away stress in 8 steps
  • How to eat nuts the healthy way
  • In the journals: Most people don't take heart drugs as directed
  • In the journals: If depression meds don't work, switching sooner may be best
  • In the journals: Sinus-flushing product linked to a dangerous infection
  • In the journals: Acupuncture relieves common types of chronic pain

More Harvard Health News »


About Harvard Health Publications

Harvard Health Publications publishes four monthly newsletters--Harvard Health Letter, Harvard Women's Health Watch, Harvard Men's Health Watch, and Harvard Heart Letter--as well as more than 50 special health reports and books drawing on the expertise of the 8,000 faculty physicians at Harvard Medical School and its world-famous affiliated hospitals.