The Quick Report

10 Ways to Keep Your Brain Young and Healthy

Artist depiction of a senior citizen playing chess

The key to a young and healthy brain starts with diet, mental and physical activity, our physique, and social activities. All play vital roles. Fortunately, what’s required is relatively easy to do. There are various lifestyle choices and habits that can contribute to brain health and help keep your cognitive functions vibrant. 

By incorporating the ten following practices into your daily life, you can promote cognitive resilience, enhance memory, and enjoy a sharper mind as you age. Remember that small, consistent changes can significantly improve your brain health over time.

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1. Stay Physically Active


Regular physical exercise benefits your body and is crucial for brain health. Physical activity using your muscles increases oxygen blood flow to the brain, particularly the region responsible for thought. This promotes the growth of new neurons and improves overall cognitive function. This makes the brain more efficient and adaptive. The result is a brain with more neuroplasticity, meaning it can be changed or altered. This is true even into adulthood. 

Studies have shown that animals who exercise regularly have an increase in the number of tiny blood vessels in the brain. These animals had better performance even as they aged.

According to Harvard Medical, Doctors recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week to improve physical and mental health.

2. Maintain a Balanced Diet


A nutritious diet is essential for both the body and brain health. 

Include foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish), antioxidants (found in fruits and vegetables), and vitamins like B6, B12, and folate. These nutrients support brain function and protect against age-related cognitive decline. 


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One way to ensure regular intake of these nutrients is to follow a healthy diet, such as a Mediterranean-style diet.

3. Improve Your Blood Pressure, Blood Sugar, and Cholesterol


Three health factors increase the risk of cognitive decline as we age, as well as dementia:

  1. High blood pressure: As we age, the risk of high blood pressure increases. In turn, this increases the risk of cognitive decline in old age. Diet, exercise, weight control, stress reduction, and limiting alcohol to two drinks a day can help keep blood pressure low. However, for many people, their blood pressure may need to be controlled through medication.
  2. High LDL cholesterol: LDL or “bad” cholesterol is associated with an increased risk of dementia. Cholesterol levels can be improved through diet, exercise, weight control, and avoiding tobacco. However, in many instances, it may need to be controlled through medication.
  3. Blood sugar: High blood sugar leads to diabetes and is an important risk factor for dementia. Some issues with blood sugar can be controlled, particularly for those who have prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. Through proper diet, regular exercise, and maintaining a lean physique, these conditions can be prevented. However, if your blood sugar remains high, you’ll need medication to control it.

4. Challenge Your Mind


Mental stimulation is crucial. Keep your brain engaged by challenging it regularly. Any mentally stimulating activity can help build up your brain. Read, solve puzzles, play strategic games, do math problems, or learn a new language. A combination of mental effort and manual dexterity, such as drawing, painting, playing a musical instrument, or other crafts, is also effective. Stimulating activities foster the growth of neural connections and enhance cognitive flexibility.

Studies in mice and humans have found that activities that challenge the mind stimulate new connections between nerve cells. This may even help the brain generate new cells. Neurologists say developing neurological “plasticity” and building up a functional reserve will protect against future cell loss.

A lifelong commitment to learning is an excellent way to keep your brain young. Enroll in classes, attend workshops, or pursue hobbies that challenge and stimulate your mind. Learning new skills or acquiring knowledge encourages the formation of neural pathways.

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5. Get Quality Sleep


A third of American adults report that they usually get less sleep than the recommended amount, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Sleep is vital for brain health. It helps with memory, cognitive function, brain repair, and brain communication. Sleep also plays a crucial role in clearing plaque-forming amyloids and tau proteins that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

How much sleep does a person need? It depends on their age. But in general, aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Establish a consistent sleep routine, create a comfortable sleep environment, and avoid stimulants like caffeine close to bedtime.

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6. Manage Stress and Care for Your Emotions


Chronic stress is another condition that can negatively impact brain health. Practice stress management techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, or yoga. These activities promote relaxation, reduce stress hormones, and improve overall well-being.

Researchers have found that people who are depressed, anxious, exhausted, or sleep-deprived tend to score poorly on cognitive function tests. Good mental health helps prevent a decline in cognitive function.

7. Stay Socially Connected


Maintaining social connections is not only good for emotional well-being but also for cognitive health. Engage in social activities, spend time with friends and family, and participate in group events. Social interactions stimulate the brain and contribute to its resilience.

Studies have associated strong social ties with a lower risk of dementia. Social ties also help lower blood pressure and increase life expectancy.

8. Limit Alcohol and Avoid Tobacco


Excessive alcohol consumption and smoking have been linked to cognitive decline. Limiting or eliminating both these habits can contribute to better overall health, including brain health.

Tobacco in all of its forms should be avoided. If possible, quit smoking.

Limit alcohol intake to moderate levels, and if possible, quit entirely. It is a major risk factor for dementia. For those who choose to drink, limit your consumption to two drinks per day.

9. Protect Your Head


Take precautions to prevent head injuries. Moderate to severe head injuries, even when diagnosed without a concussion, increase the risk of cognitive impairment.

When engaging in any activities that pose a risk of head injury, such as biking or playing contact sports, wear a helmet. 

Protecting your head is essential to prevent traumatic brain injuries that can have lasting effects on cognitive function.

10. Stay Hydrated


Proper hydration is crucial for overall health, including brain health. Dehydration can impair cognitive function and concentration. Ensure you drink an adequate amount of water throughout the day to keep your brain functioning optimally.

Up to 60% of the human adult body is water, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Here is how much water is in some of the most vital parts of the body: 

  • Brain & heart: 73% water
  • Lungs: 83% water
  • Skin: 64% water
  • Muscles and kidneys: 79% water
  • Bones: 31% water