When it comes to healthy aging, most people focus on keeping their body strong. And while that is extremely important, it’s also crucial to keep your brain healthy too.
It isn’t something you can see like gray hairs or wrinkles, but your brain also changes as you age. According to BrainFacts.org, brain cells can stiffen with age, resulting in declines in memory and cognitive abilities.1
And while everyone experiences some form of cognitive change as they age, some people experience more severe loss of mental function than others. More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease.2 Alzheimer’s isn’t a normal part of aging, and it isn’t simple memory mishaps, like forgetting someone’s name. It’s a progressive disease that destroys memory and other important mental functions.
There are simple ways you can help keep your brain healthy as you age. Practicing certain healthy habits and activities can help reduce your risk of cognitive decline. And while research is still evolving when it comes to preventing Alzheimer’s disease, the evidence is strong that certain lifestyle choices may help prevent Alzheimer’s.
Check out these five activities that can help keep your brain healthy:
- Get Social
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, studies indicate that maintaining strong social connections may lower the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.3 Call up a friend, or go out for dinner with a family member. If you need help meeting people, join a club that regularly meets and focuses on a hobby or topic that you enjoy. Searching Facebook groups and websites like Meetup.com can help you find groups that meet in your area.
- Engage your brain with games and activities
Games and puzzles are fun and can help improve your long- and short-term memory.4 Crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, Sudoku and chess are just a couple of brain-boosting things to try. Creating crafts is another great way to engage your brain. Get your creative juices flowing and stimulate your creativity. You’ll exercise your brain, have some fun and create something beautiful, all while practicing your fine motor skills.
- Get Sweaty
Exercise isn’t just good for your body. It’s also helpful for your brain. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, regular exercise may be a beneficial strategy to lower your risk of Alzheimer’s.3 Plus, it can help support your long-term memory! A well-rounded exercise regimen for seniors includes endurance or aerobic activities, strength exercises, balance exercises and flexibility exercises.
- Catch your zzz’s
Adequate sleep helps your body and mind recharge. If you don’t sleep enough, you can experience memory problems. Do your brain a favor and get seven to eight hours of sleep every night. Create a good sleep environment by keeping your bedroom comfortable, cool, quiet and dark. Limit use of screens, caffeine and alcohol before bed. Practice a regular bedtime ritual and stick to regular bedtimes and wake times.
- Eat well
The Alzheimer’s Association says that eating a healthy, balanced diet can help reduce the risk of cognitive decline. This includes a diet that is lower in fat and higher in vegetables and fruit. Research on diet and cognitive function is limited, but certain diets such as Mediterranean and Mediterranean-DASH may contribute to risk reduction.3
Take these simple steps to care for your brain—and you’ll be glad you did!
2Alzheimer’s Association, Facts and Figures, https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/facts-figures, 2020.
3Alzheimer’s Association, Prevention, https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/research_progress/prevention, 2020.
4Mental Floss, 11 Unforgettable Games to Improve Your Memory, https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/64418/11-unforgettable-games-improve-your-memory, 2020.