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Healthy Brain Habits: How to Keep Your Mind Sharp as You Age

Healthcare | January 31, 2023

A grandfather reading with his grandson to help keep his mind sharp.

Every brain changes with age, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t take steps to keep your mind sharp as you age. There are a variety of ways that you can keep your brain healthy, and some of them are a lot simpler than you may think. Keep reading to find out what you can do to keep your brain in tip-top shape as you age.

11 Ways to Keep Your Brain Healthy

Take up activities that provide mental stimulation

One of the best ways to keep your mind sharp is to exercise your brain. The National Institute on Aging found that people who trained their cognitive abilities could reason and process information better after 10 years than the seniors who didn’t.

The best part of cognitive training is that it’s not hard. There are numerous fun activities that keep your brain sharp over the years, including:

  • Reading
  • Crosswords and other puzzles
  • Trivia
  • Word-based games
  • Card games
  • Math problems
  • Drawing
  • Knitting

Get the blood flowing with physical exercise

Your brain isn’t the only part of your body that needs exercise. Regular exercise helps your brain get the support it needs to stay sharp. According to the Mayo Clinic, exercising 30 to 60 minutes several times a week can even:

  • Keep your thinking, reasoning, and learning skills sharp.
  • Delay the start of Alzheimer’s disease or slow its progress.
  • Improve memory, reasoning, and other thinking skills for people with mild Alzheimer’s or other cognitive impairments.

Fortunately, there are plenty of simple, less stressful ways for older adults to exercise. The following physical activities are great ways to stay in shape without overexerting yourself.

  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Yoga
  • Chair exercises
  • Light strength training

Stay social

Talking can be as helpful as walking when it comes to mental stimulation. According to research from Northwestern University, staying social can help keep your mind sharp, prevent mental decline, and lower the risk of dementia. That means your brain benefits a whole lot from the following activities:

  • Hanging out with family and friends
  • Phone calls and video chats
  • Meals with loved ones
  • Joining clubs or organizations
  • Participating in exercise groups or classes
  • Volunteer opportunities

Steer clear of tobacco

It’s no secret that tobacco isn’t good for your health. What you may not know is that smoking and other tobacco-based activities can affect your long-term cognition. Studies show that seniors who smoke perform more poorly on cognitive tests and are at greater risk for dementia. As such, it’s best to quit tobacco use as soon as possible if you want to maintain a healthy brain.

Maintain a healthy diet

Healthy eating habits are a great way to support your body from head to toe. The Mediterranean diet or MIND diet can help lower blood pressure and support your brain. These diets encourage focusing on the following types of food:

  • Vegetables, especially leafy greens
  • Berries
  • Whole grains
  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Beans
  • Nuts

Even if you don’t want to completely follow these diets, good nutrition will help support your body. Moderation is key when it comes to the occasional treat or fatty food – both your body and brain will appreciate you for it.

Watch your blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol

Speaking of blood pressure, it’s best to track this medical problem. High blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol directly increase the risk of mental decline as you age. Exercise, healthy eating, limiting stress, and proper medication can all help you keep your blood pressure, diabetes, and other health issues in check.

Avoid excessive drinking

Food isn’t the only thing you should enjoy in moderation. A drink here and there is perfectly fine – in fact, the MIND diet thinks wine can help brain health – but excessive drinking
can be especially problematic for seniors. A Harvard study found that mildly impaired individual seniors who drank too much are 72% more likely to progress to dementia. That doesn’t mean the occasional drink is bad, just make sure not to enjoy yourself too much.

Protect your brain

While there are a lot of factors that affect long-term brain health, injuries can create immediate issues. Falls are particularly problematic as you get older and can lead to broken bones, concussions, and other sudden or long-term issues. Here are some tips to help you protect your head for years to come.

  • Stay active and exercise your muscles to keep flexible and improve mobility.
  • Stand up slowly and take your time on stairs, on ice, and other problem areas.
  • Wear non-skid shoes or other footwear designed to fully support your feet and provide traction.
  • Use canes, walkers, and other assistive devices if necessary and make sure they’re in good condition.
  • Have your eyesight tested so that you can see trip hazards or other dangers.

Reduce stress

According to The American Institute of Stress, individuals in their forties can start to deal with memory loss because of increased stress. While it’s difficult to completely relax all the time, you can use the following tools to help you avoid or relieve stress and protect your brain.

  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Meditation
  • Mental stimulation games and activities
  • Relax with family or friends
  • Light exercise
  • A spa date or some other form of treat

Get some sleep

A good night of sleep helps us recharge our brains, which is especially important as we get older. Deep sleep plays a key role in memory regulation and improves cognitive health over time, while poor sleep disrupts these important brain activities. Harvard Medical School suggests the following tactics to improve the quality of your sleep.

  • Keep a consistent sleeping schedule.
  • Maintain a healthy sleeping environment. Keep your room dark, quiet, and cool to optimize your bedtime.
  • Don’t read, work, watch TV, or use mobile devices in bed.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol right before bed.
  • Limit naps to less than an hour before 3 p.m., and that’s only if you genuinely feel sleepy.
  • Embrace pre-sleep rituals, like stretching at night, a warm bath, or some other relaxing habit.

Keep learning

A great way to exercise your brain is to give it new mentally stimulating activities. Don’t be afraid to learn new skills or take up a new hobby. New activity will force your brain to keep working and reduce the risk of cognitive decline from stagnation. Even learning new facts from your favorite quiz show can give your brain cells something new to do.

Have the Support You Need to Make Aging Easier

Taking measures to keep your mind sharp is an important step to navigating the complexities of later life, but it’s not the only one. Trying to determine the right senior living solution? National Church Residences takes an individual approach to support seniors and help them live a healthier, more satisfying lifestyle. Find out which senior living options are in your area or give us a call at 844-465-6063 to talk to one of our friendly staff members today.

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