Like your muscles, your brain gets flabby if you don’t exercise it. To find out the best ways to strengthen your brain, take Health’s anti-aging quiz (below), developed with Louis Cozolino, PhD, a professor of psychology at Pepperdine University and author of The Healthy Aging Brain: Sustaining Attachment, Attaining Wisdom (W.W. Norton, 2008; $35).
1. Which is better for keeping your mind sharp?
A. Watching a movie with your kids.
B. Playing Scrabble with your kids.
Answer: B. Interacting with your kids, as opposed to sitting passively on the couch, triggers neural growth.
2. Which prevents you from getting lost?
A. Taking unfamiliar routes to work, home, and the grocery store.
B. Taking the same route so it’s ingrained in your brain.
Answer: A. Mix it up. Repetitive routines tell your brain that it no longer needs to keep growing.
3. True or False:
Kissing your husband under the mistletoe helps keep your brain young.
Answer: True. Displays of affection can help to strengthen attachments, which may encourage the growth of neurons.
4. As our brains age …
A. Cognitive speed and memory decline.
B. Making friends gets no easier or harder.
C. The ability to problem-solve improves.
Answer: All of the above. The brain ages in complex ways. To limit the downsides, acquire new hobbies and find healthy ways to manage stress.