When talking about calm, serene environments, we think green spaces, starry skies, silent nights and fresh air. Words that don'tspring to mind: traffic jams, Laundromats, shopping malls, smog. For city dwellers, such calm, serene environments are often only a product of our daydreams, far off magical lands where public transport doesn't exist. If you need to find a real-life happy place -- and moving to the country isn't an option -- don't despair. Here are a few ideas to bring calm and serenity to your urban life.
Get outside So you don't have four acres of land behind your house, or even a backyard. There's plenty of fresh air out there, so grab some. Find a park or a stretch of grass near your workplace. Pack your lunch (or pick up some take-out sushi) and spend your lunch hour outdoors. It might not be the great outdoors, but being out of the office, even for a little while, can rejuvenate you.
Bring outside in Grab your garden gloves, get planting and reap the benefits of indoor plants. In addition to brightening up your living room or desk, indoor plants can clean the air around you by taking in carbon dioxide. Digging around in the dirt is a definite stress buster, and watching your fern grow -- in spite of the smog outside -- will give you a sense of accomplishment. Give new meaning to the term urban jungle!
Get your urban family together Dinner is Chinese takeout -- for the third time this week. Just because your mother and father and cousins are in other provinces doesn't mean traditional, sit-down dinners have to be a thing of the past. If cooking a huge dinner for just a few seems like a waste, invite more people. Invite your surrogate family, your friends and their families. What could be more relaxing than gathering loved ones around the table for great food and stimulating conversation? Make it a weekly thing, alternating houses and responsibilities (one week, you're in charge of the main course, the next, you do dishes).
Don't take shortcuts One of the best things about living in a city is how many things are made quicker for you. You can go through the touch-less car wash in three minutes, drop off your laundry and pick it up clean and folded a few hours later, you can get a complete workout in less than thirty minutes. Sure, it can be a godsend, but sometimes you want to get your hands dirty. Hand-wash your laundry and dry it outside. Fill a bucket with soapy water and scrub the car yourself. Go for a long walk or do yoga in the park (the bigger the city you live in, the less likely people will look at you funny, if they even notice). Take your time to get the task done and you'll find your head will be clearer as a result.
Slow down your food Food, too, has gone the way of quicker is better. Get your salads pre-washed and bagged, or pick up some veggies for a stir-fry, pre-sliced and ready to go. With all the preservatives in produce these days, who knows how long it's been since it's been growing on a tree or in the earth? Buy some fresh stuff. Most cities in Canada have a farmer's market, where you can actually talk to the people responsible for growing your food. The taste of just-picked strawberries, or the heat of a still-warm loaf of bread -- you can't package that. Take the time to find some great ingredients, cook a meal and savour every bite. Not living anywhere near a farm doesn't mean you have to sacrifice the joy of eating fresh.
There are some great things about urban living. Shopping, entertainment and culture are usually in abundance. Living in a city means that if you want it, you can usually get it, no matter how obscure. But when all the hustle and bustle gets to be too much, think about how you can bring some elements from outside the city to you. You can have the best of both worlds.
Our editors share the items they are coveting this February—and they're all under $100.
As much as we love shopping, what we love even more is a good deal. Which is why we asked our style editors to share the items that they'll be shopping for this month. The good news? Everything is under $100, which means you don't have to feel guilty about picking a few things up yourself.
As I think about spring, I always begin to think about what sneakers I’m going to pick up. Spring is sneaker season, at least if you ask me. This year, I’m going back to basics with a classic pair of Vans. Bonus—they’ve been spotted on bloggers, models and off-duty actors, so you know this style is making a comeback. At the very affordable $80 price point, this will be money well-spent seeing as how I'll be living in them for the season. - Alexandra Donaldson, contributing editor
Graphic pants are everything at the moment. Dress them down with sneakers, add heels for a more professional look, pair it with a form-fitting top to keep it sleek. They'll go with everything. - Noelle Gauthier, style intern
Uniqlo women smart style ankle length pants, $40, uniqlo.com.
Easy to apply eyeshadow
If I’m wearing makeup beyond my under-eye concealer and mascara, it needs to be efficient. Which is why I have my eye on this Nudestix eye crayon. The metallic hue will add a bit of pizzazz to my makeup look, without too much extra effort.
Nudestix Magnetic Eye Colour in Twilight, $28, sephora.com.
How come boyfriend jeans always seem amazing in theory, but never translate into the model-off-duty look when worn? These "girlfriend" jeans have a tailored fit making them far more wearable.
Animal motifs have been hot on the runway—but if you can’t afford to spring for Gucci (and really, who can?) you can pick up this panther cropped sweatshirt from Forever 21. At $25 it’s a steal—and super cute to boot.
A few years ago I never could have imagined loving the kitten heel like I do now—but these days everything is old new again. The low-heel allows me to survive in them all day, so I'm thinking they'll be sticking around for awhile.
Say what you want about the Kardashians, but they have the perfectly tousled California-girl waves I'm after. Enter this new haircare line by their trusted hairstylist, Jen Atkin. I'm eyeing this texturizing spray to recreate their manes.
Headaches are one of the most common health complaints for Canadian women. Here's the rundown on five types of headaches: what causes them, how to proven them and how to feel better faster.
Headache type: Tension
If you've ever experienced a headache—and who hasn't?—this is probably one you've had. "It's your regular garden-variety headache, with aching around your whole head and more steady pressure than migraines," says Dr. Michael Zitney, the director of the Headache & Pain Relief Centre in Toronto. You're not likely to have any nausea, and there won't be sensory sensitivity. "You can usually still watch TV or work at your computer, for example, through a tension headache," he explains.
Why they happen: Doctors used to think tension headaches were caused by too-tight muscles in the neck, shoulders, face and head, but experts now believe they might be due to inflammation of the lining and main nerve areas in the brain. "Some of the triggers can be similar to migraine triggers," says Dr. Farnaz Amoozegar, a neurologist in Calgary. These include stress, sleep and dietary factors.
Treatment options: Most tension headaches will go away on their own, but taking ibuprofen, acetaminophen or acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin) can help. There are also preventive medications that can help reduce the frequency or severity of chronic tension headaches, ones that occur more than 15 days a month; your doctor might recommend a muscle relaxant or an antidepressant (amitriptyline and nortriptyline are a couple of the common forms), though the latter needs to be gradually increased and can take a few weeks to start working.
Headache type: Migraine
These headaches, which typically last four to 72 hours, are one of the most common in women—about one-quarter of us suffer from them, compared to about eight percent of men. The diagnostic criteria are very specific, says Dr. Sian Spacey, a neurologist, physician and director of The University of British Columbia's Headache Clinic in Vancouver. Patients must have two of the following characteristics: throbbing, moderate to severe pain, unilateral pain (on one side of your head) and pain that worsens with activity. They must also experience nausea and vomiting, or sensitivity to light and sound.
Why they happen: Frustratingly, it can be hard to pinpoint the cause, but it seems to be a mix of genetics and environmental factors. If you have a family history of migraines, you might be more prone to them. And there are common triggers, says Dr. Zitney. These include substances found in foods (MSG, nitrates and other preservatives, aspartame, alcohol and ca eine), lifestyle factors (skipping meals, dehydration and getting too much or too little sleep), weather changes, stress and fluctuating hormone levels thanks to our menstrual cycles.
Treatment options: Dr. Zitney recom-mends three stages of treatment. "The simplest and easiest thing to use is an anti-inflammatory," he says, adding that over-the-counter ibuprofen is a good option, as are prescription medications such as naproxen. If those don't o er relief, the second stage is triptans, migraine-specific medications that target pain at its source. "Migraine pain develops from a circuit of neuronal pathways and molecules in the brain,"says Dr. Amoozegar. "Once these path- ways were discovered, scientists began working on medications that specifically target them." There are seven triptans approved for use in Canada. They're available by prescription and come in oral, injectable and nasal-spray forms— but they're not an option if you have heart problems, as they can increase your risk of a serious cardiac event. You can also use a triptan and an anti-inflammatory in combination, as they approach pain in different ways. The last stage is a stronger painkiller, used sparingly—and only if you aren't at risk for addiction.
It's also worth asking your doctor about preventive meds, like antiseizure medication, beta-blockers and even Botox (which works by inhibiting the release of pain-related molecules). And if your menstrual cycle triggers migraines, you can also look into hormonal manipulation. "If it's safe for you to use the birth control pill or the hormonal IUD, you can fool your body into not having periods, which stops menstrual-related migraines," says Dr. Zitney.
Headache type: Medication-overuse
Formerly known as rebound headaches, these tend to occur in patients who have a high frequency of headaches and take a lot of painkillers, says Dr. Amoozegar. Folks who get migraines tend to be more prone to this type of headache, especially those who take medication for their migraines more often than they should.
Why they happen: It's the headache we cause ourselves due to regular, long-term use of painkillers, says Dr. Zitney. "If you take medications too often, they can turn around and bite you," he adds. "The head- aches start to come more often. Then, when the medication wears off, you have to take more, which brings on another headache. It's a pattern that's very hard to get out of once you're in it." As a general rule, it's OK to use medication (either over-the-counter or prescription) to treat headaches about 10 out of every 30 days. But if you find your-self using drugs more than 15 days out of the month for three consecutive months, see your doctor.
Treatment options: Education is key. "People need to know that their meds are the culprit," says Dr. Amoozegar. "Depending on what they're using, they need to gradually stop taking painkillers and start taking preventive medication." Beta-blockers and antiseizure medication aren't painkillers, but they can help reduce the frequency of migraines.
Headache type: Cluster
This is a rare, distinct type of headache. Cluster headaches are often seasonal or occur during the same time every year (or every couple of years). "These are shorter headaches that last from 15 minutes to three hours. They're unilateral and accompanied by symptoms like tearing, a droopy eyelid, a change in pupil size and nasal congestion on the side of the face where the pain is," says Dr. Spacey. This is the most severe type of headache you can get, and it's been dubbed the "suicide headache" because of the sufferers who have either committed suicide or thought about it during a cluster attack. Though they're more common in men than women, a 2012 study in the Journal of Neurological Sciences found that when women do get cluster headaches, they tend to have more daytime attacks and worse pain during nighttime attacks.
Why they happen: Causes haven't been pinpointed, but there's evidence that suggests abnormalities in the hypothalamus (the part of the brain that regulates sleep- wake cycles) could be part of the problem. Cluster headaches usually occur in the spring or fall, and triggers vary widely. Alcohol can worsen an attack.
Treatment options: Over-the-counter drugs won't make a dent in treating a cluster headache, nor will triptans (the attack is usually over before they kick in). For the drugs that do offer relief, opt for injections or nasal sprays, which are often faster acting. Giving the sufferer oxygen via a mask can also help some patients.
Headache type: Sinuses
You know those throbbing headaches where you also have a fever, a runny nose, congestion, an icky green discharge and pain in your face? That sounds like a sinus headache, says Dr. Amoozegar. But, she adds, they're often misdiagnosed. Many headaches that occur in the face are actually migraines; it can only be a sinus headache if you also have a sinus infection or another serious sinus issue.
Why they happen: Blame inflammation of the sinuses (a.k.a. sinus- itis), which is caused by anything that stops them from draining properly, such as a cold or flu, allergies or respiratory infections.
Treatment options: The first step is a visit to the doctor's office to confirm you have a sinus infection. If you do, you'll likely get a prescription for antibiotics. Ibuprofen, acetaminophen or acetylsalicylic acid can help ease the pain while you're waiting for the meds to kick in.
No longer a fashion faux pas, eyewear has become a statement-making accessory that calls to mind words like chic, pulled together and fun. Think of
Iris Apfel, whose round frames are synonymous with the 94-year-old fashion icon. Or stylish J.Crew designer
Jenna Lyons with her trademark black specs. And let’s not forget
Lupita Nyong’o, who presented at the Golden Globes this year in a Giambattista Valli Haute Couture gown and thick eyeglasses.
Fit first Fit is the most important factor to consider when purchasing glasses. Many women wear frames that are too small or too big. “The width of the frame needs to be the same width as the widest part of your face,” says Lo. Why? Because your optician cannot change the frame size to fit you better. Your frames are too small if the arms splay outwards and too big if they cover your eyebrows or don’t fit snugly against the bridge of your nose.
Note, too, the position of your eyes within your face. For the optimal fit, your peepers should sit right in the centre of the lenses (horizontally) and in the centre of the upper half of the lenses (vertically).
Your face shape Next, find out your face shape and which frames suit it. When you try on frames, you want to think about balance and proportion. By drawing the eye to, or away from, certain facial characteristics, you can have a lot of fun with this accessory.
Oval If you have an oval face, lucky you! You’re in the same boat as
Charlize Theron and Eva Mendes. Your face is longer than it is wide and gently slopes at the forehead and chin without any hard or angular lines. "This shape is the most versatile because it's considered the most balanced," says Lo. With glasses, this means you can have fun and try whatever you want.
Round Round faces have full cheeks and are as long as they are wide—think Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams. With a round face, you want to avoid round frames because they will echo the shape of your face. Instead, try rectangular or square frames. The angular details will balance full cheeks and a rounder jaw. Lo also notes that "a great rectangular frame can be very slimming.”
Square Square faces—like those of Olivia Wilde, Demi Moore and Kyra Sedgwick—have broad foreheads and strong jaw lines, both of a similar width. Avoid square glasses, which will accentuate the hard lines, and instead, says Lo, try “round frames in a darker colour to add softness to a hard, angular face."
Michael Kors, $250, lenscrafters.ca. Francis Klein Gaspard, $445; Anni Shades P8120529, $645; both available at Josephson Opticians.
Heart Those with heart-shaped faces have wide foreheads and pointy, defined chins—as is the case with
Reese Witherspoon and Scarlett Johansson. To create balance, steer clear of top-heavy frames, which means avoiding cat-eye shapes and two-toned frames that will accentuate the top half of the face, creating an even more pronounced forehead. "Balance the lines of the face with finer, lighter and thinner curvy frames,” says Lo.
Leisure Society, $1,080, available at Josephson Opticians. Carolee, $150, lenscrafters.ca. Oliver Peoples, $300, available at Josephson Opticians.
Long Long faces are defined, predictably, by their length. They tend to have long foreheads and a jaw line that gently tapers towards a prominent chin—think Sarah Jessica Parker and Liv Tyler. Skip small frames, as they’ll look childish. “This is a face shape where an oversized frame won’t look sloppy,” says Lo.
Oliver Peoples, $300, available at Josephson Opticians. Warby Parker, $130-$370, warbyparker.com. Anna Karin Karlsson, $390, net-a-porter.com.
Now trending If you're looking for a modern frame—no matter the shape—Lo let us in on a couple trending looks.
1. Matte finishes: These sandblasted frames nix the typical glossy finish. We’ve seen this matte finish take off in
nail trends; now watch it become popular in eyewear.
2. Modified cat-eye style frames: These glasses tend to have a strong, straight brow line and a frame that gently tapers inwards, often in a curve. This shape can draw attention to cheekbones and can be a slimming pick for fuller faces. Because the cat eye is less exaggerated, and because this style relies on both hard lines and gentle sloping, this is a shape that most face shapes can try.
3. Fine metal frames: These frames are thin and often found in gold, silver or antique metals. You may be thinking of Harry Potter or your grandmother's reading glasses, but these fine metal can come in many shapes and is an example of great craftsmanship.
Here are some scary truths: 70 percent of new Alzheimer's patients in Canada will be women, and we're diagnosed with depression and dementia at twice the rate of men. But new research says there are three simple lifestyle changes we can make right now to keep our brains healthy as we age.
You brush your teeth to prevent tooth decay and check your blood pressure to monitor for signs of heart problems. But are you doing anything to keep your brain in tip-top shape? Because you should be. Brain health, which experts define as a combination of cognitive (memory, attention, thinking) and mental (emotional well-being) fitness, is a major, albeit under-the- radar, health issue for Canadian women.
It's major because as we age, so do our brains. Vascular changes can decrease blood flow; we can lose volume in key areas, including the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex, the regions responsible for learning and memory. Myelin, a fatty material that makes up the protective coating around nerve fibres, starts to deteriorate, causing the brain to slow down. And nerve cells can develop plaques and tangles— structures caused by the buildup of proteins called beta-amyloids that can disrupt the brain's normal function. In some people, these and other signs of normal aging can cause mental health problems, strokes and brain disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer's, and increase the risk of diseases such as multiple sclerosis.
Brain health is an under-the-radar issue because, though women are more likely to experience cognitive decline (thanks to dementia or Alzheimer's) and to suffer from depression, most of the research on these conditions still focuses on men.
Thankfully, studies are showing that straightforward lifestyle changes—exercising regularly and not smoking are at the top of the list—help shore up what researchers call "cognitive reserve," a buffer that "delays the changes or makes your body better equipped to handle those changes," says Lauren Drogos, a brain researcher at the University of Calgary.
In fact, Drogos says there's evidence to show that, in some people, even serious symptoms do not necessarily develop into cognitive impairment. She points to the Nun Study, a famous long-running research project on aging and Alzheimer's that has been tracking 678 nuns from convents across the United States since the mid-1980s. One of the nuns, Sister Mary, died at the age of 101 showing no outward signs of cognitive decline—but when researchers examined her brain, they were shocked to find she had "abundant neurofibrillary tangles and senile plaques, the classic lesions of Alzheimer's disease." Scientists don't know exactly why some people can have severe symptoms, such as plaques and tangles, without experiencing cognitive decline, but, happily, cases like Sister Mary do show that dementia isn't an inevitable part of aging.
And since women are more likely than men to be diagnosed with many of these problems, the more we consider brain health when making our day-to-day lifestyle decisions, the better. (Bonus: These changes also benefit your heart and help prevent other diseases, including Type 2 diabetes and cancer.) So here's what you can do to take care of your brain.
This is your brain on exercise If you had to pick just one lifestyle change to make in the name of brain health, experts agree exercise tops the list—especially for women.
We consider neuroplasticity, the brain's capacity to form new neural connections, an exciting part of a child's development, but we now know our brains can continue to grow, repair and improve as adults, too. Physical activity is a well-researched trigger. Not only can working out bolster our day-to-day functioning and alertness but it also appears to help us repair brain damage. Plus, it slows down aging and the onset of age-related brain diseases.
Working up a sweat and pumping up your heart rate can lead to a healthier vascular system in the brain, which decreases blood pressure and oxidative stress (when your body's antioxidants can't fight off free radicals), and increases antioxidant activity, according to Marc Poulin, an Alzheimer's researcher and professor of physiology at the University of Calgary. Vigorous exercise also floods the bloodstream with a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which readies the body for repair and heightens the brain's ability to learn and form new memories. Plus, hitting the gym helps the brain repair myelin; a lack of the nerve fibre–protecting substance is a factor in developing multiple sclerosis.
Exercising can also restore crucial brain volume. Research has shown that the hippocampus— home to memory, learning and emotion—starts shrinking after age 55 by about one to two percent a year, but just one year of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise done three days a week can increase its size by two percent.
And while most of the research is about the benefits of getting in your cardio, Dr. Teresa Liu-Ambrose, an associate professor and Canada research chair at The University of British Columbia and the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute, says strength training is also effective, as it can enhance brain performance and function by 11 to 17 percent. "Women live longer [than men], and age itself is the greatest risk factor for dementia," she says. "But the good news is when we look at the benefit of aerobic exercise on cognition in older adults, women seem to benefit more."
The takeaway: You can reap the rewards from even a 15-minute walk. Of course, the longer you exercise, the better, especially if you get your sweat on and your heart rate up. If you want to tick a few other brain health tips off your list, consider joining a team sport. It blends physical, social and cognitive skills, and "can also add pleasure and meaning to our lives," says Dr. Nasreen Khatri, a registered clinical psychologist, gerontologist and neuroscientist at the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences in Toronto.
If you have an office job and find you're sedentary most of the day, take a few minutes every hour or so to get up and move around. Research also suggests switching to a standup desk may improve your brain function.
Did you know? Taking care of a loved one—most often a spouse in your later years—can be a risk factor for developing depression and, eventually, dementia . But research out of the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences in Toronto found, for the first time, that cognitive behavioural therapy, a form of talk therapy, can improve both mood and cognition.
This is your brain on sleep After a good night's sleep, you feel alert and ready to tackle the day. But that's not just because your brain has been resting. It has also been busy filing away memories and taking out the trash, so to speak, thanks to the glymphatic system, which washes the brain of waste materials. For example, a protein called betaamyloid, which is known to play a role in the development of Alzheimer's, acts as a neurotoxin when it builds up, killing neural cells in the brain. But a good sleep removes excess beta-amyloid and other waste materials, says Dr. Liu-Ambrose.
Because one of the common symptoms of Alzheimer's is disrupted sleep, it's unclear whether a lack of shut-eye should be considered part of the progression of the disease or a risk factor on its own, due to the buildup of beta-amyloids.
Nevertheless, poor sleep hastens your brain's aging process—much like sitting in the sun sans SPF speeds up your skin's aging process. And disturbed sleeping has been linked to all aspects of brain health, including an increased risk of depression and a decline in cognitive functions such as memory and reasoning. In one U.K. study out of University College London Medical School, middle-aged women who reported a drop in the average number of hours they slept had lower scores on cognitive tests involving reasoning and vocabulary.
What's more, our central clocks—a.k.a. our circadian rhythms—can drift from the patterns of our childhood, making it hard to get that much-needed rest. "As we age, our central clock is less sensitive to stimuli like light, food and physical activity," says Dr. Liu-Ambrose; this change makes it harder to fall, and stay, asleep. We can also become more vulnerable to stress and anxiety, which further disrupt those rhythms.
One way to combat these fluctuations is to try what seasoned travellers do for jet-lag recovery: Get exposure to real daylight and eat your meals on time to nudge your brain into a routine. And don't use bright screens at night, especially before bed, because they mimic sunlight and tell our circadian system that it's day, not night—and, therefore, not time to sleep. Those who need more help might consider light therapies that have been developed to treat seasonal affective disorder, says Dr. Liu-Ambrose.
The takeaway: Many researchers consider six to eight hours of sleep a night to be the standard sweet spot, though this can vary by individual. If you're routinely getting less than that and waking often in the night, not feeling refreshed in the morning and experiencing bouts of sleepiness during the day, talk to your doctor about sleep strategies—especially if you're experiencing anxiety or depression. In the short term, napping can reverse some of the effects of poor sleep, including memory loss and increased stress. And you only need a 30-minute catnap to feel the results.
This is your brain on a healthy diet There's no perfect "brain food," but eating a nutritious diet (lots of veggies and fruit, lean meat, fish and healthy fats) is the smartest way to maintain long-term brain function and memory, and to slow the development of brain diseases.
Getting enough of specific nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids is important but not the holy grail. University of Pittsburgh researchers recently found that people who eat broiled or baked fish at least once a week have larger brain volumes in the areas used for memory and cognition, despite varying levels of omega-3 in the fish they ate. Senior researcher James Becker concluded that he and his colleagues were "tapping into a more general set of lifestyle factors that were affecting brain health, of which diet is just one part."
In a 2015 study from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, researchers looked at the broad set of eating habits of more than 900 people over 4 1/2 years and found that those who adhered to a diet high in fish, vegetables, nuts and berries, and low in fat and sugar, slowed down their brains' aging by about 7 1/2 years when compared to those with less-healthy diets. The healthy eaters cut their risk of Alzheimer's by up to 53 percent. And even when those people only adhered to the diet part time, they saw some benefits— an effect that has not been found in other diets, says Drogos.
The researchers dubbed the most promising cluster of these eating habits the MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet, which blends the longevity-boosting Mediterranean diet and the heart-healthy low-fat DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet that doctors recommend to patients at risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. More studies need to be done on why it works, but in the meantime, there's no downside to eating healthier and ditching the junk.
The takeaway: Add more veggies to your diet. Research shows that older adults who report eating more of this food group perform better in mentally stimulating activities than those who don't.
Did you know? "Menopause brain" is a real thing. As with "pregnancy brain," its more famous counterpart, women approaching menopause really do experience memory problems and brain fog. Researchers think a drop in estrogen levels might be the cause.
Can you train your brain? Does firing up a brain-training app actually help improve your memory and ward off dementia? Sorry to disappoint, but right now, evidence for the benefits of computer-based brain games is weak, says Dr. Teresa Liu-Ambrose, an associate professor and Canada research chair at The University of British Columbia and the Vancouver Coastal HealthResearch Institute. Brain games appear to help you learn to play them better, but research doesn't show that those tasks transfer to other aspects of brain performance. The same goes for crossword puzzles and sudoku, which help your vocabulary and math skills, but nothing more.
How to maintain your mental edge at any age
In your 30s: This is the time to make sure you establish healthy habits—such as getting plenty of exercise and sleep, and eating a good diet—that will affect your brain health throughout your adult years. "When it comes to maintaining brain health, the best time to start is yesterday," says Dr. Nasreen Khatri, a registered clinical psychologist, gerontologist and neuroscientist at the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences in Toronto. If you feel you need a boost at work, consider old-fashioned writing instead of typing on your computer. A study in the journal Psychological Science found that university students who made handwritten notes were better equipped to recall conceptual ideas from their professors' lectures than those who had typed notes on their laptops.
In your 40s and 50s: People in this age group are part of the "sandwich generation," and often face caring for their aging parents on top of dealing with their other work, financial and parenting obligations. So, unsurprisingly, they're super stressed—and this can affect both mental health and day-to-day brain function. Dr. Khatri says it's essential to prioritize and edit out activities and commitments that increase stress without adding value to your productivity or happiness. That's because "maintaining mental health in early and mid life is key to safeguarding cognitive health later on," she says. "Untreated depression in midlife doubles your risk of developing dementia in later life."
In your 60s and beyond: In your senior years, socializing with friends and family, and picking up activities that allow you to connect, such as volunteering, are key to maintaining brain health. And sorry, keeping up with folks on Facebook isn't enough. "Ask yourself: Is social media rounding out my real-life social experiences?" suggests Dr. Khatri. What you need is face-to-face interaction.