Our poor brains.
From 25-years-old on, it's just one long downward spiral toward Age Related Cognitive Decline (ARCD). As Dr. Jack Lewis writes at The Independent, ARCD is an inevitable part of aging. If we were all to live to be 150, he says, our capacity to maintain focus and memory will have long since degraded. It's just a simple fact of life... or at least until those darn scientists figure out this whole immortality thing.
If the above bit of cranial memento mori is getting you down, Dr. Lewis offers solace by suggesting several strategies you can employ to stall the process by which your brain shrinks toward ineffectuality. The first is to exercise regularly. The brain thrives when steady streams of blood pump oxygen through it. Sitting at your desk 40 hours every week isn't doing your brain any favors. Go for a long walk after work in order to feed it what it likes.
Something else you can do to keep your brain fit is to take advantage of neuroplasticity. Just as the muscles in your body get stronger when you exercise them, our brains benefit from activities that cause it to change and adapt.
"By consistently challenging it with fresh mental activities, your brain will be continually forced to restructure, rewire and build new connections to cope with the new demands placed on it."2
There are four activities Dr. Lewis cites as delayers of ARCD: learning a musical instrument, playing chess, dancing, and reading.
Each of these activities requires your brain to interpret, adapt, or think critically. Learning guitar requires memorization of finger movements. Playing chess is all about stretching cognitive capacity. Dancing is similar to playing an instrument, though with an intrinsic social element added. Reading involves connecting words on a page with an understanding of what they mean in your mind.
Those four (plus exercise) are but the tip of the iceberg. Learning a new language is another way to expand your brain through neuroplasticity. No matter how you choose to keep your brain in shape, coupling these activities with exercise will postpone ARCD, and thus dementia and Alzheimer's. It's the least we can do for our poor and doomed brains.