Public Health

6 Ways to Take Charge of Your Brain Health

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They say aging isn’t for the faint of heart. And while it’s true that aging can come with obstacles, strengthening your brain can help lessen one of its greatest challenges: cognitive decline.

Cognitive decline can come on suddenly or gradually as we age. It’s often passed off as forgetfulness, losing your train of thought or problems with memory. It’s also attributed, in large part, to your genes. Although you can’t change your genetic makeup, you can make behavioral changes that may help prevent or delay cognitive decline — and keep your brain young even as you age.

Here are six ways to take charge of your brain health:

1. Get Regular Exercise

Exercise is one of the most important things you can do for your health as you age. That’s because regular physical activity is linked to a host of health benefits, like a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some types of cancer. It’s also associated with delayed cognitive decline and an improved quality of life.

You should aim for 30 to 60 minutes of exercise several times a week. You can choose the activity — the only rule is that it must increase your heart rate.

2. Get Enough Sleep

Most older adults should try to get 7 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. And prioritizing sleep can help you reap many health benefits, including improved memory, a well-regulated metabolism and reduced mental fatigue. Without sleep, you can’t form or maintain the pathways in your brain that help you learn, making it harder to concentrate and have mental clarity.

3. Eat a Plant-Based Diet

Your diet affects your brain health more than you might realize. In fact, researchers have found that eating more plant-based foods, like berries and leafy greens, while limiting foods high in saturated fat and animal products, can help lower your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Many doctors recommend the Mediterranean diet as a beneficial nutrition plan to follow because of its emphasis on plant-based foods, whole grains, fish and healthy fats.

4. Get Mental Stimulation

Just as your body needs regular exercise, so does your mind. When you engage your brain with mentally stimulating activities, it creates new connections between nerve cells and may even generate new cells. This leads to “plasticity,” or better mental performance, and helps prevent future cell loss. Boost your brain health with activities like reading, playing cards or doing Sudoku puzzles.

5. Stay Socially Active

Research shows that social isolation can cause the brain to atrophy, which means it can shrink in size. Remaining socially engaged with people and activities is linked to a lower risk of dementia, as well as lower blood pressure and a longer life. It can also help ward off depression, which is more common as we age.

6. Keep Your Numbers in Check

High blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes are all known risk factors for dementia. Living a healthy lifestyle by exercising regularly, eating right and avoiding tobacco and alcohol can help keep your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol in a range that lowers your risk of cognitive impairment.

Care for Your Whole Nervous System

Our neurologic specialists can help you keep your brain healthy. We prevent and treat the full range of neurologic disorders, such as stroke, brain tumors, spinal conditions, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, headaches, Parkinson’s disease and sleep conditions.

No matter your neurology needs, there’s always hope here.

Learn about how we care for neurologic disorders.

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