5 Ways to Keep Your Brain Sharp As You Age

time.com

Cognitive decline is not inevitable

Vital parts of the brain tend to atrophy as we age. But brain scans of some 70-year-olds looks similar to those of 20 to 30-year-olds.

Cognitive decline is not inevitable as you age. Research points to healthy lifestyle habits that may keep the mind sharp while ageing.

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Research shows social isolation increases dementia risk by 50% in older adults.

You don't need to seek as many friends as possible, but building social circles that satisfy your individual needs can be enough, like spending more time with neighbours or volunteering. One common ageing problem that causes social withdrawal is hearing loss. Addressing hearing loss is vital for brain health.

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Manageable stress motivates you and supports brain health. But relaxation is just as important. Meditation and music are great de-stressors. A good night's rest assists in mental sharpness. Adults who sleep poorly over a long period are more likely to suffer cognitive decline.

Simple routines can improve sleep, such as limiting food and drink three hours before bedtime, maintaining the same sleep schedule, and eliminating electronic devices in the bedroom.

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One of the best ways to keep your body young is to stay physically active. The same is true for the brain.

  • Exercise increases a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDN), which is vital for growing and keeping neurons.
  • Exercise can help prevent brain inflammation. 

Strive for 150 minutes of aerobic workouts and two days of strength training per week. Add a cognitive challenge like sports or dancing that combines cardio, music, socialising and remembering steps.

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After exercising, choose a brain-healthy recovery meal.

  • One diet known to reduce the risk for Alzheimer's disease is a Mediterranean diet - eating fish and plant-based foods such as fruit, vegetables, nuts and olive oil.
  • Another eating plan is the MIND diet, a variation on the Mediterranean approach that prioritises foods that support brain health, such as berries and green, leafy vegetables.

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Having a goal-driven purpose is associated with a 30% reduction in dementia, according to a 2017 study. 

The mind can be engaged in socialising or other forms of engagement such as writing a novel, caring for someone, pursuing a satisfying job into your 80s, exercising or practising an enriching hobby.

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