You Can Keep Your Brain Healthy at Any Age

You Can Keep Your Brain Healthy at Any Age

You Can Keep Your Brain Healthy at Any Age

Lee esto en EspañolIt’s common to think that forgetfulness and other changes in our brain function are a part of getting older that we just have to accept. But studies show that there are simple steps you can take to help prevent cognitive decline and lower your risk of dementia.

It’s never too soon to start taking steps to keep your brain healthy. But even if you’re already experiencing some changes, you can help prevent or slow the progress of cognitive decline.

Keep Your Brain Healthy

“The brain is malleable and changeable, and can improve throughout our lives,” neurosurgeon and health correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta told the American Academy of Neurology’s Brain & Life magazineleaving site icon

Dr. Gupta, who has written books about healthy aging and improving brain health, found that there are five main contributors to brain health that you can control: be more active, keep the brain stimulated, get enough quality sleep, eat a healthy diet, and build a strong social life.

Some of the steps you can take for your brain health are the same as the ones you take to keep your whole body healthy:

  • Be more active. Studies show that exercise is one of the most important things you can do for your brain health. Routine activity helps the brain by raising blood flow. That can slow a drop in mental function and lower the risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological problems.
  • Get plenty of sleep. It boosts your total recall and brain health. It’s also critical if you’re feeling less alert than usual.
  • Eat a healthy diet. What you eat plays a large role in your brain health. A Mediterranean diet, heavy on plant-based foods, whole grains, fish and healthy fats like olive oil is a good pick. Low in red meat and salt, this way of eating appears to raise mental focus and slow mental decline in older adults.

And staying mentally active is also an important way to protect your brain health. Make a game plan to help improve your cognitive fitness:

  • Keep your mind active. Your brain is like a muscle that you need to use. There are lots of things that you can do to keep it in shape, like reading, word games, playing cards or putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Consider it cross-training for your brain. Doing different activities is the key.
  • Connect with others. Find ways to connect with friends and family. Dr. Gupta says that enjoying life through socializing seems to help brain health. Communities that have the best brain health in the world are ones where people are socially active and have rich social ties.
  • Keep learning new things. A job may help keep you mentally active. Taking up a new hobby, taking classes, learning a new skill or volunteering can also keep your mind sharp. And try things that need manual skill, like building something, drawing or other crafty pursuits.
  • Use all your senses. The more senses you use in learning something, the stronger your memory of it will be.
  • Believe in yourself. The negative things we believe about aging can contribute to a decline in memory and mental ability. People who feel they can’t do anything about it are less likely to work at maintaining or improving their memory skills and more likely to decline. Try believing you can improve and acting to make it happen.
  • Prioritize your brain use. Save your mental energy for learning and remembering new and important things. Use smart phone reminders, calendars and shopping lists to keep routine information easy to find and remember. Always keep your keys, glasses and other frequently needed things in the same place to avoid having to try to remember where you put them every time.
  • Reinforce what you want to know. Say it out loud, or write it down. This can build up the memory or link.
  • Repeat it. Repeat words as a learning tool. Try once an hour, then in a few hours, then each day. That can help improve memory and make it simpler to master complicated information.
Talk to Your Doctor

Having some mild forgetfulness or noticing a difference in your thinking doesn’t mean you have a serious problem. But if you’re experiencing changes in your memory or brain function that concern you, be sure to talk to your doctor. Signs that may be concerning include having trouble with simple math or paying bills, frequently getting lost, repeating things over and over, or losing things more often.

Sources: 6 tips to keep your brain healthy, leaving site icon Mayo Clinic, 2022; 6 simple steps to keep your mind sharp at any age, leaving site icon Harvard Medical School, 2020; Dr. Sanjay Gupta Gives Advice on How to Improve Brain Health, leaving site icon American Academy of Neurology’s Brain & Health, 2021

Originally published 4/22/2022; Revised 2024