Tips to keep your brain healthy

As you get older, your body and brain will change. There are, however, certain things you can do to assist in slow memory loss and reduce your chance of Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias.

In order of importance, these are five things I recommend to my patients:
Every person’s brain changes as they get older, and so does their mental performance.

Mental decline is a typical occurrence, and it’s one of the most feared side effects of growing older.

However, cognitive decline is not unavoidable. Here are 12 strategies to keep your brain in good shape. 

1. Get mental stimulation

Scientists have discovered that brainy activities create new connections between nerve cells and may even help the brain generate new cells, resulting in neurological “plasticity” and the development of a functional reserve that protects against future cell loss in mice and humans.
Any mentally engaging activity should aid in brain development. Reading, taking classes, and engaging in “mental gymnastics” such as word puzzles or math problems are all good ideas.

Experiment with things like drawing, painting, and other crafts that demand both manual dexterity and mental work. 

2. Get physical exercise

According to research, using your muscles also benefits your intellect. Animals that exercise regularly increase the number of small blood arteries that deliver oxygen-rich blood to the thought-processing area of the brain.

Exercise also promotes the growth of new nerve cells and the strengthening of connections between brain cells (synapses). This leads to more efficient, malleable, and adaptable brains, which translates to improved performance in older animals.

Exercise also helps your brain and heart by lowering blood pressure, improving cholesterol levels, balancing blood sugar levels, and reducing mental stress.

3. Improve your diet

A good diet can benefit both your mind and your body. People who follow a Mediterranean-style diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, unsaturated oils (olive oil), and plant-based protein sources, for example, are less prone to suffer cognitive impairment and dementia.

4. Exercise regularly.

My first piece of advice to my patients is to continue exercising. Exercise has a slew of well-documented advantages, and it appears that regular physical activity is beneficial to the brain.

Physically active adults are less likely to have a deterioration in mental function and have a lower risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease, according to multiple studies. These advantages are thought to be due to increased blood flow to the brain during exercise.

It also has the ability to counteract some of the natural declines in brain connections that occur as people age, effectively reversing some of the issues.

Aim for 30–60 minutes of activity several times per week. You can walk, swim, play tennis, or engage in any other moderately aerobic activity.

5. Get plenty of sleep.

Your brain’s health is influenced by how well you sleep. According to some ideas, sleep helps your brain eliminate aberrant proteins and consolidate memories, which improves your overall memory and brain health.

It is critical that you receive seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep per night, rather than two- or three-hour chunks. Consistent sleep allows your brain to consolidate and remember memories more effectively.

Sleep apnea is bad for your brain’s health and could be the reason you can’t sleep for more than a few hours at a time. If you or a family member suspects you have sleep apnea, speak with your doctor.

6. Eat a Mediterranean diet.

Your nutrition has a significant impact on your mental health. My patients should try a Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes plant-based meals, whole grains, fish, and healthy fats like olive oil. It has far less red meat and salt than the average American diet.

According to studies, persons who adhere to a Mediterranean diet are less likely to get Alzheimer’s disease than those who do not.

More research is needed to determine which aspects of the diet have the most impact on your mental health.

We do know, however, that omega fatty acids present in extra-virgin olive oil and other healthy fats are necessary for your cells to operate properly, that they appear to lower your risk of coronary artery disease, and that they improve mental focus and slow cognitive decline in older persons.

7. Stay mentally active.

Your brain is like a muscle: if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. You can keep your brain in shape by practicing crossword puzzles or Sudoku, reading, playing cards, or putting together a jigsaw puzzle, among other activities.

Consider it mental cross-training. As a result, combine a variety of activities to boost efficiency.

I don’t endorse any of the current paid brain-training programs. These programs frequently make promises they can’t keep or concentrate on memorizing abilities that aren’t applicable in actual life.

Reading or solving puzzles can give your brain a wonderful exercise as well. Finally, limit your television viewing.

8. Remain socially involved.

Depression and stress, both of which can lead to memory loss, are aided by social engagement. If you live alone, look for opportunities to connect with loved ones, friends, and others.

Solitary confinement has been linked to brain atrophy in studies, thus staying socially active may have the opposite impact and help your brain stay healthy.

9. Care for your emotions

On cognitive function tests, those who are nervous, sad, sleep-deprived, or fatigued tend to do badly. Poor scores may not always indicate a higher risk of cognitive impairment in old life, although mental health and peaceful sleep are key goals. , Do not overindulge in television viewing.

10. Improve your cholesterol

High levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol are associated with an increased risk of dementia. Diet, exercise, weight control, and avoiding tobacco will go a long way toward improving your cholesterol levels.

But if you need more help, ask your doctor about medication.


Harvard Health Publishing makes our archived content available to our readers as a courtesy. On all articles, please note the date of the most recent review or modification.

No content on this site, regardless of date, should be used to replace direct medical advice from your doctor or another trained practitioner.

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