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Did you know you’ll improve your mental power simply by reading the newspaper? That’s because reading increases blood flow to the brain, and strengthens the connections between brain cells. Dr. Sandra Chapman is director of the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas. She says talking about what you read is even better. Because interpreting a story strengthens the frontal lobe of the brain, which is one of the first areas to decline with age.

And a new study in Psychological Science finds learning new, active skills, like quilting, a new language, or playing a musical instrument, or traveling in a foreign country are more effective at keeping your mind sharp. That’s compared to doing something like crosswords and other word and number puzzles. It’s because social, engaging activities like traveling and detail-work, like tiny stitches and new vocabulary words, promote active learning and continuous stimulation of our brain functions.

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