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October 2019

Keep Your Brain Sharp as You Age

To hear some people tell it, getting older always means losing your mental edge. Yet research tells a much different story. It shows that most people can remain mentally sharp well into their 60s, 70s, and beyond.

Two older men laughing while they play chess

Certain lifestyle habits can help protect the brain over time. These habits may reduce the risk for cognitive decline—a decrease in mental abilities such as learning, language, and memory. The following strategies can help you take care of your brain.

Get regular physical activity

Physical activity that raises your heart rate is as good for your brain as it is for the rest of your body. It increases blood flow, which provides extra nourishment to your brain. Plus, it reduces potential risk factors for dementia, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and unhealthy cholesterol levels. Talk with your healthcare provider about which activities are best for you.

Give your brain a mental workout

Regularly exercising your mind also helps keep your brain in tip-top shape. Learn something new, such as how to play an instrument or cook a new cuisine. Play games, such as chess and bridge, that require strategic thinking. Tackle puzzles, such as solving a crossword or putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Or take a class at your local community college, because formal education at any age helps reduce the risk for cognitive decline.

Consider brain training apps

These digital apps, such as Lumosity, feature games designed to keep your brain active. You can play them on your cellphone, tablet, or laptop. Some are free; others charge a fee to subscribe. Look for an app with a variety of games you enjoy.

Pursue meaningful social activities

Staying socially engaged and active in your community is another way to support the health of your brain. Plan activities with friends and family. And make new friends by joining a walking group or faith-based organization. Consider volunteering for a cause you care deeply about.

Protect against head injuries

A brain injury can increase the risk for cognitive decline and dementia. So, buckle your seat belt when riding in a vehicle and put on a helmet when pedaling a bike. Reduce your risk of falling at home by making sure rooms are well-lit and floors are free of clutter.

Above all, don’t buy into negative stereotypes about aging. There’s a lot you can do to help keep your thinking sharp. And the more you believe in yourself, the more likely you are to take steps that promote a healthier brain.

 

10 foods that nourish your brain

Eating more plant-based foods and less saturated and trans fats is good for your overall health. In addition, studies suggest that certain foods may have specific benefits for your brain, like slowing cognitive decline and delaying your risk for Alzheimer disease.

Even a relatively small change in your diet may make a difference. For example, just 2 servings of berries and 1 serving of fish per week may be beneficial.

Here’s a top 10 list of brain-friendly foods:

  1. Green leafy vegetables

  2. Other vegetables

  3. Berries

  4. Nuts

  5. Beans

  6. Whole grains

  7. Seafood

  8. Poultry

  9. Olive oil

  10. Wine (no more than one drink per day, and only if you don’t have a health condition or take a medicine that rules out alcohol)

Online Medical Reviewer: McDonough, Brian, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 7/1/2019
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