Keeping your mind active, by maintaining a focus in life, is an important way to boost cognitive function. We chat with Richard Howeson, owner of uTalk (utalk.com/en), about why this is so vital.
When it comes to lowering your risk of developing dementia, regular exercise and a healthy diet is key. However, another important factor in the fight to keep your brain healthy is mental stimulation. Experts believe that regularly challenging your brain with mental exercise activates processes in the brain that not only helps to maintain brain cells, but also promotes communication between them.
Work at it
Having a mentally stimulating job is a great way to keep your brain active. Richard Howeson, 67, owner and co-founder of uTalk, Britain’s biggest language learning company, is a firm believer in the power of mental activity to keep your brain healthy.
‘Running a company like uTalk keeps me incredibly busy,’ he says. ‘We regularly deal with people from all over the world, who speak a multitude of languages and this sometimes throws up some very interesting logistical challenges. It also gives me the opportunity to interact with people from a vast range of different backgrounds.’
Richard adds: ‘Although I’m sometimes jealous of my peers who have now retired, I have come to realise that without an active life, some of them may no longer be quite as perky or mentally alert as they once were.
‘When going on business trips where I will meet people whose first language is not English, I always try to learn some of their language, as even one word in their language can make a huge difference in showing that I care about them.
‘I can also feel the difference to my brain power after a 20-minute session trying to learn a language like Manx, and my recent business trip to the Isle of Man proved a great success!’
However, if you are no longer working, fear not: practising a hobby or learning a new skill – including a new language – functions in the same way. Learning something new helps to preserve brain connections – so give it a go! In addition, the harder you work at your new skill, the better it will be for your brain. In a New York Timesinterview last year, Lisa Feldman Barrett, professor of psychology at Northeastern University, in Boston, urged older people to study any new topic hard, until ‘tired or frustrated’. This level of exertion, she states, increases the ease of communication within the brain, resulting in enhanced cognition.
Clear the mind
As well as keeping his mind active, Richard is a keen advocate of exercise, and uTalk is a proud sponsor of The Dementia Help Cycle Challenge which took place last week. Dementia Help’s co-director, Peter Berry, cycled over 330 miles from Wales to Suffolk, to raise vital funds for YoungDementia UK.
‘Exercise is a great way to boost blood flow to the brain,’ says Richard. ‘I enjoy cycling – it not only keeps me fit, but clears my head and makes me more mentally alert during the day, so when I’m working, I feel more productive and have improved concentration.’
uTalk is Britain’s biggest language company and two-time winner of the prestigious Queen’s Award for Export Achievement and Innovation. uTalk has been used by 30 million people in 100 countries. You can download the uTalk app at utalk.com/app or visit the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/uTalk/