7 Daily Ways to Keep Your Brain Young
Here's your new routine for good cognitive health, according to doctors.
When we think of cognitive health, we tend to think of the mind as something to train, maintain, and manipulate to stay sharp. However, experts say that keeping your brain young and healthy is more about your broader health habits than any brain-boosting program or product. In fact, they say there are several simple things you can do every day to ensure that your cognitive health remains intact as you age. Read on to learn the seven daily habits that can keep your brain young, according to neurologists, geriatricians, and other top-rated doctors.
You already know that getting regular exercise is good for your physique, but you may not be aware that working out is also crucial to keeping your brain young and healthy.
Verna Porter, MD, a neurologist and the director of Dementia, Alzheimer's Disease and Neurocognitive Disorders at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California, says that exercising regularly can slash your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease by up to 50 percent. The key, she says, is to exercise 30 to 45 minutes per day, four to five days per week.
"Exercise may slow existing cognitive deterioration by stabilizing older brain connections (synapses) and help make new connections possible. The ideal is to increase physical activity through a combination of aerobic exercise and strength training," she tells Best Life.
Challenge your mind with brain-boosting activities.
While the experts agree that there's no need for gimmicks when it comes to cognitive health, they do say that staying mentally stimulated can also help you keep your brain young and reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
"Just as muscles weaken if not used, our brains can lose their edge if they aren't challenged regularly," explains Alejandro Alva, MD, a psychiatrist and medical director at the Mental Health Center of San Diego. "Activities like reading, solving puzzles, or learning a new skill can keep your brain sharp. Think of it as a workout for your brain—the more you challenge it, the stronger and more flexible it becomes."
Spend some time with your loved ones.
Another way to boost your brain health is to connect closely with others. "Staying socially engaged may help protect against Alzheimer's disease and dementia in later life; maintaining a strong network of family and friends is very important," says Porter.
While phone calls or video calls are better than staying solo, the neurologist says face-to-face socializing is especially beneficial. If you're struggling to make connections, she suggests joining volunteer organizations, clubs, social groups, group classes, or at least spending time in public places such as parks or museums.
Make healthy food choices.
Another way to improve your brain health and keep your brain young is by making thoughtful food choices, says Scott Kaiser, MD, a geriatrician and the director of geriatric cognitive health for the Pacific Neuroscience Institute in Santa Monica, California. In particular, he suggests a nutrient-dense, plant-focused diet that's rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients. Some examples of brain-healthy foods include green, leafy vegetables, berries, green tea, and nuts.
For a detailed meal plan, Porter suggests the MIND diet, which is associated with a reduced risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease.
Practice good sleep hygiene.
Poor sleep and cognitive decline have long been linked by research, which is why it's crucial to practice good sleep hygiene if you want to keep your brain young and healthy.
Porter explains that this may be because poor sleep leads to higher levels of beta-amyloid depositions. The neurologist describes these as "a sticky 'brain-clogging protein' that interferes with brain function."
"Other studies emphasize the importance of uninterrupted sleep for flushing out brain toxins–including beta-amyloid," she adds.
Try mindful meditation and deep breathing.
Meditation and deep breathing exercises can help curb stress while initiating a "relaxation response" in your body, Kaiser explains. This can trigger a cascade of positive physiological responses—slowing the heart rate, relaxing blood vessels to lower blood pressure, boosting immune factors, lowering blood sugar, improving mood, and more. Taken together, this sets the stage for a younger, healthier brain, the geriatrician says.
Get enough omega-3 fatty acids and magnesium.
Whether through your diet or supplements, it's important also to ensure that you get enough omega-3 fatty acids and magnesium, says Robert Iafelice, MS, RDN, a nutrition expert at Set For Set. "Both of these nutrients are important for optimal nerve transmission and for lowering brain inflammation," he says.
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Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the medication you're taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.