Olympic champion speed skater Apolo Ohno knows that the secret to fast, nimble skating is a razor-sharp set of skates. Your brain can learn from that: The secret to keeping it fast and nimble means sharpening it with some proven, but not-so-obvious, steps:
1. Keep blood pressure healthy. This is the most important thing you can do. Decades before memory and thinking problems appear, high blood pressure creates microscopic scarring in the brain. High blood pressure seems to damage tiny arteries that supply blood to "white matter" - the network of nerve fibers that brain cells use as a communication system. Get your pressure checked, and take every step you can to keep it in control (that means under 115/76).
2. Check your vision. You need sharp eyesight to keep Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia at bay. But cataracts, glaucoma and other vision problems can get in the way. In one recent study, people with vision problems who saw an ophthalmologist were 64 percent less likely to develop dementia than those who didn't.
3. Get help for depression. Depression doubles the risk for dementia. And in one study, a bout of major depression nearly tripled the risk among people with diabetes. The link might be high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, or the fact that it's just difficult to take care of your health when you're depressed. Either way, if you're losing your zest, ask your doctor for help getting a handle on depression.
4. Play games. Any game will do, but the more brainpower it requires, the better for your mind.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. To live your healthiest, visit sharecare.com. Distributed by King Features Syndicate.