Constantly challenging the brain helps to build dendrites, said Fuller, who tells her students to learn new languages, play word games, do mental math and stay socially active.
Below are other brain-boosting tips offered by Fuller and other experts:
- Don't smoke: "It's the worst thing you can do to your brain," said Dr. Nora Morgenstern of Colorado Kaiser Permanente. "It can very clearly affect your memory."
- Eat right: "A healthier diet that doesn't promote hyperlipidemia (high fat levels in blood) and increased cholesterol and is high in antioxidants (vitamins A, C and E) is good for brain function," said Dr. H. Rai Kakkar, a Denver neurologist. Decreased circulation resulting from cardiovascular disease is a chief contributor to dementia, he said.
- Keep learning: Morgenstern is also a musician and a big advocate of learning to play an instrument at any point in life.
Fuller said people should do things such as learn a foreign language, read about current events, complete crossword puzzles and play word games.
- Drink moderately or not at all: Alcohol has an immediate effect on memory and learning and can lead to alcohol dementia when abused for years.