How to Keep Your Brain Healthy as You Get Older: Top 8 Tips
Jun 01, 2022
Aging is inevitable; it’s just a fact of life. But aging doesn’t have to mean feeling old, weak, and sluggish. You probably already know you can do certain things — like eating well and exercising — to support your physical health as you age, but what about brain health? Are there ways to keep your brain healthy as you get older, too?
The answer is “yes,” even if there are gray areas. As Dr. Eric Larson, executive director of the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute, says, there’s no one “miracle cure” for aging-related brain issues.
But although we are still learning about the brain and its functions, there are ways to help maintain a healthy brain as we age.
1. Stimulate Your Brain Muscles Regularly
Scientists once thought brain development was more finite. In other words, they believed brain function and memory couldn’t be restored once lost.
But the newest research brings more hope.
Neuroscience research shows that — like our muscles — the brain can grow and rebuild with regular “exercise.”
For example, you can keep your brain healthy and sharp through activities that activate and challenge your mind in new ways. We see a lot of brain games and puzzle phone apps these days, but those aren’t the only options:
- Join a club or workshop on something you find interesting.
- Learn a new skill like gardening, dancing, or computer programming.
- Find ways to be creative with others and at home.
- Do things that force you to problem solve and challenge your thinking.
2. Stay Social Around Those You Like and Love
Another crucial way to keep your brain stimulated is with social activities. Spend time engaging with family and friends you love. Get involved in volunteering with your local community or doing other social things with people you enjoy.
3. Get Regular Physical Exercise
Yep, physical exercise is good for your brain, too!
A study published in Preventative Medicine found that, in adults age 45 or older, cognitive decline was higher in those who were inactive or had lower physical activity levels. Brain decline was also nearly twice as common in inactive adults compared to active ones.
Related: Exercise: Are You Getting Enough?
4. Get Enough Sleep
You’ve probably already heard you should get more sleep for better health and happiness — because it’s true!
If you want to decrease your chances of many health issues, including poor brain health, prioritize getting enough shuteye. At least seven to eight hours is the ideal range for most adults.
5. Have a Gratitude Practice
According to Touro University Worldwide, stress can reduce our sociability, kill brain cells, reduce brain size, and mess with synapse regulation.
Chronic stress is harmful to the brain, and many of us are experiencing high levels of stress daily.
Practicing gratitude can help reduce stress and improve mental wellbeing. When you have a daily gratitude practice, you focus more on what’s good and what you can control in life, combatting the stress that comes with work and life.
The Greater Good Science Center has many free gratitude practices you can try.
6. Eat Well
A healthy diet supports a healthy body and brain. That’s why Dr. Donn Dexter, a neurologist, recommends a Mediterranean-style diet with whole plant foods, fish, whole grains, and healthy fats with fewer read meats and salt.
Omega-3-rich foods also support brain health for all adults.
7. Watch Your Blood Pressure and Blood Sugar
A healthy heart is necessary for a healthy brain. Be aware of:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- High blood sugar
If you have any of these, focus on ways to live better and reduce your numbers.
8. Stop Smoking and Watch Alcohol
A 2015 meta-analysis found a crucial link between smoking and brain health:
- Smokers showed a 30% increased risk of dementia compared to non-smokers.
- Quitting smoking can decrease the risk of dementia to the level of non-smokers.
In addition, long-term heavy drinking can negatively impact the brain’s neurons, including making them smaller. So, it’s best to ditch the cigarettes and drink safely and moderately (if you do at all).
The Bottom Line
We’ve based these eight tips for how to keep your brain healthy on the latest expert- and research-based information. Treat your body well, engage your brain, and take steps to live well while supporting your cognitive health.