We all want to stay sharp as we get older. Although aging is inevitable, there is a lot you can do to keep your brain as young as possible.
Research shows that exercise:
- Helps the brain grow new brain cells (neurons). Exercise appears to slow age-related brain shrinkage and maintain the cognitive abilities that diminish with age. Studies suggest that this is because regular exercise helps spur the growth of new neurons.
- Helps prevent stroke and some forms of dementia. Exercise helps lower your blood pressure. High blood pressure damages the arteries that supply blood to the brain, which in turn can cause stroke, mild cognitive impairment (trouble with understanding and memory) and dementia as you get older.
You don’t need to take up marathon running - exercise as simple as taking a walk every day can help you build a better brain.
Exercise your brain
If you want to stay sharp, use your brain now, and don’t stop. The latest research shows that exercising your brain throughout your life slows mental decline in old age. Keeping your brain active appears to protect the connections among brain cells, and may even help you grow new cells. Read about the study in the medical journal Neurology.
Here are some ways to use your brain every day, from the Alzheimer’s Foundation:
- Stay curious and involved
- Read, write, work crossword or other puzzles
- Attend lectures and plays
- Enroll in courses at your local adult education center, community college or other community group
- Play games
- Try memory exercises
Feed your brain
A healthy diet will help keep your brain healthy, and help your heart, too. Eat lots of colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and cold-water fish like wild salmon. Choose healthy fats that come from plants –polyunsaturated fats like olive oil – instead of saturated fats like butter. And consider adding these brain-healthy foods to your menu:
- Wild salmon
- Nuts and seeds
- Whole grains
- Citrus fruits
- Colorful vegetables
- Dark chocolate
Learn more about how these foods help keep your brain healthy.
Humans are wired to be social – even introverts. We’re learning that new experiences and new friends – and old friends - do more than enrich your life. Research shows that an active social life helps reduce your risk of developing dementia, including Alzheimer's disease. The theory is that social connections help keep the connections between your brain cells (neurons) strong.
If you’ve been neglecting your social life, here are some ideas to jump-start it:
- Join a service club, book club, hobby group
- Set aside time on a regular basis to connect with friends