Ways to Keep Your Brain Healthy

50 Ways to Keep Your Brain Healthy

One of the biggest concerns people have about getting older is losing that mental sharpness you benefited from in your younger years. While it’s common to joke about having a ‘senior moment,’ the truth is that taking steps today to keep your brain healthy can go a long way in helping you avoid having more of those senior moments and reducing your risk of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to keep your brain healthy, and it’s never too late to get started. Plus, many of the things you can do to improve and maintain brain health also happen to be good for your physical health and well-being and can help you look and feel younger, too.

These tips are grouped by category to help you dive right in and start making changes today to support brain (and body) health for life:

Managing Health Conditions Linked to Brain Health

  1. Managing Health Conditions Linked to Brain Health Take steps to improve your blood pressure. According to Harvard Health, hypertension can take a toll on the brain and make you more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia later in life. Fortunately, many of the strategies in this post (such as regular exercise and a healthy diet) not only help you keep your brain healthy, but they can also help you manage your blood pressure.
  2. Manage your blood sugar. The Mayo Clinic reports that diabetes is linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, although the connection isn’t fully understood. If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, particularly type 2 diabetes, managing the condition effectively may help to reduce your risk of cognitive decline and other complications of diabetes.
  3. Lower your blood pressure. High blood pressure at any age increases your risk of dementia, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, so it’s important to monitor your blood pressure and take steps to lower it to healthy levels. However, a diagnosis of high blood pressure earlier in life may lead to an even greater risk, according to the American Heart Association. A recent study found that people with high blood pressure diagnosed earlier in life (between the ages of 35 and 44) were 61% more likely to develop dementia during the study’s 8-10 year follow-up period.
  4. Maintain healthy cholesterol levels. According to the Alzheimer’s Society, research suggests a possible link between high cholesterol and dementia. Cholesterol is also linked to an increased risk of other dementia risk factors, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, so taking steps to maintain healthy cholesterol levels can improve your health in more ways than one.
  5. Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity has been linked to an increased risk of dementia, according to the National Institute on Aging. Taking steps such as diet changes and regular exercise can help to keep both your body and brain healthy.
  6. Avoid risk factors for heart disease and stroke. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that the risk factors linked to heart disease and stroke, such as obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure, can also have a negative impact on brain health. That means focusing on heart health can benefit your brain, too.

Lifestyle Changes to Keep Your Brain Healthy

  1. Lifestyle Changes to Keep Your Brain Healthy If you smoke, quit. If you don’t, don’t start. According to the Alzheimer’s Society, research suggests a strong link between smoking and an increased risk of dementia. Not to mention, smoking is bad for your physical health, too.
  2. Exercise regularly. Physical exercise, especially aerobic exercise, can help to maintain brain health, according to Cleveland Clinic. This is true even for people who are at an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. In other words, there’s no excuse not to get moving.
  3. Protect your head. Brain injury can have serious impacts on your health and well-being, so protect your brain by wearing helmets when appropriate (such as when riding a bike or participating in certain sports) and always wearing a seatbelt in a vehicle. Older adults should also take precautions to prevent slips and falls.
  4. Get ample, quality sleep. Not getting enough sleep can have a negative impact on your memory. Additionally, research has shown that inadequate sleep in middle age is linked to an increased risk of developing dementia.
  5. Look on the bright side. Emotions – both positive and negative – impact brain chemistry and can affect things like cognitive adaptability, creativity, and the brain’s ability to process information. That means maintaining a positive attitude can have significant impacts on your cognitive performance as well as your mental and physical health.
  6. Write down your worries, and then let go of them. By writing down the things you’re concerned about or things you need to do tomorrow, you relieve your brain of the need to retain that information while you sleep. This allows you to get a better night’s rest, which is good for both your brain and body.
  7. Spend some time meditating. Ask the Scientists explains, “Meditation is shown to thicken the pre-frontal cortex. This brain center manages higher order brain function, like increased awareness, concentration, and decision making.” Meditation strengthens higher-order brain functions while decreasing lower-order brain activities.
  8. Learn new skills. Learning something new, no matter how old you are, can help keep your brain healthy through the development of new connections between neurons.
  9. Use it or lose it. You don’t always have to be learning something new. Using your brain regularly and challenging your mind with crossword puzzles, Sudoku, jigsaw puzzles, or even reading a book helps to keep your brain healthy as well.

Diet & Nutrition Tips to Keep Your Brain Healthy

  1. Diet & Nutrition Tips to Keep Your Brain Healthy Eat lots of green, leafy vegetables. These foods are rich in nutrients that are good for brain health, such as vitamin K, beta carotene, folate, and lutein.
  2. Eat some berries each week. Brain Health Kitchen reports on a study that found that eating one serving of blueberries or two servings of strawberries or more per week delayed cognitive aging by 2.5 years. While this study focused on women aged 70 and older, berries are packed with antioxidants and other essential nutrients that are good for the body and the brain, no matter your age or sex. What’s more, the flavonoids found in berries (which gives them their deep colors) can help to improve memory.
  3. Choose foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s EPA and DHA help to regulate brain performance and build brain structure. Fish are the best source of omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, while walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and soybeans are good sources of a different omega-3 fatty acid, ALA.
  4. Snack on walnuts. As mentioned, walnuts are high in an omega-3 fatty acid known as ALA, or alpha-linolenic acid. Foods like walnuts rich in ALA and other omega-3s can help to promote cleaner arteries and lower blood pressure for brain and body benefits.
  5. Other nuts are great for brain health, too. Nuts contain vitamin E, a fat-soluble nutrient that has brain-protecting qualities. Dry-roasted or raw and unsalted are best.
  6. Cook with olive oil. Olive oil is a great substitute for vegetable oil for cooking. Not only is it rich in antioxidants, but it also has anti-inflammatory properties. Extra-virgin olive oil, in particular, has been linked to improvements in verbal fluency and visual memory, as well as a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
  7. Indulge in dark chocolate occasionally. Dark chocolate contains flavonoids that can encourage blood vessel and neuron growth in brain regions associated with memory and learning.
  8. Drink enough water. Did you know that water makes up about 80% of your brain? Staying hydrated is crucial for brain health as dehydration can lead to increased stress hormones, which can damage the brain over time.
  9. Eat cruciferous vegetables. Veggies like cauliflower and broccoli are packed with nutrients that support brain health, such as vitamin K, which can help to improve memory, as well as beta carotene, vitamin E, and folate which have brain-protecting properties.
  10. Boost your antioxidants with spices. Spices like turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon contain beneficial antioxidants that can decrease inflammation in the brain.
  11. And don’t forget the herbs. Rosemary can increase blood flow to the brain, which can boost concentration and memory, while mint has been linked to improvements in memory.
  12. Enjoy a cup of joe. Coffee can improve memory and may reduce your risk of dementia. Experts recommend no more than three cups of black coffee per day.
  13. Opt for whole grains. Whole grains like quinoa, barley, and oats, when consumed as part of a healthy balanced diet, offer B vitamins and antioxidants and can have a positive impact on cognitive function.
  14. Try some avocado. Avocado is rich in monounsaturated fat. When consumed in moderation instead of saturated fats, monounsaturated fat can help to improve memory function.
  15. Follow a brain health diet. Both the Mediterranean Diet and the DASH Diet have been found to support brain health and lower the risk of dementia. The MIND Diet, which stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, combines the best of the Mediterranean and DASH diets in one.
  16. Avoid excessive alcohol consumption. When it comes to drinking alcohol, some research suggests light to moderate wine consumption can reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. The research is clear, however, that excessive alcohol consumption has myriad negative health effects, including changes in the brain.

Cognitive Exercises & Activities to Keep Your Brain Healthy

  1. Cognitive Exercises & Activities to Keep Your Brain Healthy Engage in activities that are meaningful to you. Meaningful activities can include anything from hobbies like gardening and photography to volunteering with an organization with a mission you value.
  2. Get social. Interacting with others helps to keep your brain active and can help to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Plus, it can help to reduce stress and improve your overall life satisfaction.
  3. Manage your stress. Easier said than done, we know! You probably know that long-term stress takes a toll on your body, leading to fatigue, insomnia, irritability, headaches, and even digestive upset. But did you know that long-term unmanaged stress can have a significant impact on your brain health? When you experience stress, your brain reacts in several ways designed to help you react or protect you from threats (the fight or flight response). Over time, stress can rewire your brain and lead to high levels of cortisol, a hormone that can impair brain function in several ways.
  4. Get treatment for depression. While you may feel like it’s something you can deal with on your own, you should always consult your doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms of depression. Left untreated, depression can have a negative impact on both your physical and mental health. In addition, it can affect the physical structure of the brain, such as reducing gray matter in important brain regions, which can increase your risk of dementia.
  5. Use your non-dominant hand. While it’s not a good idea to use your non-dominant hand for an important activity, such as signing legal documents, trying to use your non-dominant hand for less-important tasks can help strengthen your mind and increase brain activity.
  6. Put together a jigsaw puzzle. Jigsaw puzzles aren’t just fun; they also give both the left and right sides of your brain a workout. They can also improve your short-term memory and enhance your problem-solving skills, among other brain health benefits. Plus, they’re great activities to do with friends and family for some built-in socialization while you’re at it.
  7. Challenge yourself with Solitaire. When you’re in need of a brain health-boosting activity you can do on your own anytime, Solitaire is always a fun and challenging game. In fact, in addition to making you flex your problem-solving muscles, it can also help you relax and combat stress.
  8. Read a book. Reading involves networks of brain circuitry that get stronger over time – as long as you’re reading regularly to give them a workout, that is.
  9. Expand your vocabulary. When you’re reading a book, write down words you don’t recognize and look them up later to expand your vocabulary. Or, make a commitment to learn a new word each day and actually use them in your day-to-day life. You might even get to teach others a few new words along the way.
  10. Learn to dance. Whether Zumba or line dancing is more your thing, learning the sequence of steps you need to perform for a dance gives your brain a great workout and builds connections between neurons. It helps to strengthen spatial recognition and memory, plus it offers a physical workout and built-in socialization, and it can help strengthen balance, too.
  11. Experience the five senses. Different senses activate different parts of the brain, so why not give them a workout by exploring some sights, sounds, scents, and more? Bake a batch of cookies and experience the sweet aroma, then explore your sense of taste by enjoying a few. Or, head outdoors and take in the scenery while listening to the sounds of nature.
  12. Listen to or play music. Whether listening to music or playing your own, it can have positive effects on brain health. Music activates regions of the brain and can help to build new connections between neurons. Music also has the power to make you feel happy, energized, nostalgic, or melancholy, so choose your tunes accordingly.
  13. Teach someone something new. Rather than being on the learning end all the time, why not spread your knowledge by teaching someone else a new fact or skill? Not only does teaching someone else strengthen your own skills and memory, but it’s a great opportunity for some social interaction, as well.
  14. Do familiar tasks in new ways. Whether that means driving a different route to work or the grocery store or exploring new ways to make classic recipes, doing things differently than you typically do gives your brain a workout by forcing you to solve problems and use your brain rather than relying on memory alone. It has the same benefits as learning something new to keep your brain healthy.
  15. Try new puzzles every day. Take a few minutes each day — or at least a few times each week — to challenge your brain with a crossword puzzle or even a word search. Whether you do them online or using paper and pencil, these activities help to challenge the parts of the brain associated with reasoning, logic, memory, and other cognitive skills.
  16. Use your fine motor skills. Engage in activities or hobbies that require the use of your fine motor skills, such as drawing, knitting, painting, or putting puzzles together. Not only will this help to keep your fine motor skills sharp as you age, but it also helps to strengthen connections between neurons and keep your brain healthy.
  17. Challenge your memory. You may remember the days when you had your 20 closest friends’ phone numbers memorized and could spout them off like a walking phone book. While those days are long gone for most of us (thanks, in part, to smartphones that make memorizing unnecessary), using those memory muscles has many benefits for brain health. So, give your memory a workout by trying to draw a map from memory or writing down a grocery list and memorizing it.
  18. Learn or practice Tai Chi. Tai Chi is a type of martial arts that consists of slow, controlled movements, making it a gentle form of exercise while providing you with valuable self-defense skills. It also happens to improve executive functioning, such as decision-making, time management, and multitasking.
  19. Try visualization. Visualizing tasks or places in vivid detail can help to enhance your memory, and it actually activates the same networks in the brain that doing those tasks in real life would activate. Plus, using visualization to imagine reaching your goals is an excellent way to maintain a positive attitude and optimistic mindset, which are also great ways to keep your brain healthy.

If you want to keep your brain healthy as you age, moving to a continuing care retirement community is often a great choice. With plenty of opportunities to maintain an active lifestyle, pursue lifelong learning, and socialize with other older adults, continuing care retirement communities like Arbors of Hop Brook provide easy access to many things that can help keep your brain healthy. Schedule a tour to explore our community and learn how life at Arbors of Hop Brook can support total health and wellness throughout your golden years.