It’s no secret that with age, your body and mind start to slow down. But while it’s natural to have some trouble remembering or learning new tasks in later life, you aren’t powerless in the face of decline.
A few important lifestyle changes can go a long way to keeping your brain healthy and strong as you start to get on in years.
1. Feed your brain a nutritious diet
A well-balanced diet is the foundation of brain health. Certain nutrients like zinc, selenium and folate help you build new neurons —brain cells—that can improve focus, thinking and overall wellness. Meanwhile, foods rich in B-vitamins will similarly support your brain processes and help you develop neurotransmitters, chemicals that deliver messages between neurons and your body.
And good fats like omega-3s promote a healthy inflammatory response that can improve the flow of blood and oxygen to your brain.1 So how do you get all these nutrients in your diet?
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution out there, but focusing on fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats from fish or avocados —and limiting sugar and saturated fats—is a pretty smart bet.2
2. Get moving
You already know that exercise is good for you—it helps strengthen your bones, muscles, immunity and much more—but did you know breaking a sweat also helps keep you sharp?
A good rule of thumb is: If it’s good for your heart, it’s good for your brain. Working out a few times a week for about 30 minutes can increase blood flow and oxygen to your brain, leading to the creation of new neurons and better brain function.
And there’s no reason to think your activities need to be extreme; even a walk around the block will help!
3. Challenge yourself
Just as exercising your body is important, so is exercising your mind.
Learning new skills, keeping your brain busy with puzzles and knitting—or even brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand—all help with neuroplasticity, your brain’s ability to do things in new and different ways.
Encouraging this process forces you to think about what you’re doing, growing and rewiring pathways to keep your brain healthy and strong.
4. Prioritize sleep
I’m sure you’ve experienced it before: You have a bad night, and the next day you feel like your brain’s foggy, making it harder to think and recall simple things.3
This is because sleep works like a nightly tune-up for your mind, allowing the neurons you’ve used while you were awake to rest, repair and prepare to work quickly and clearly the next day.
Snooze time is also the prime time for your brain to cement important memories—and get rid of the not-so-important ones—to make space for new memories the next day.
For most adults, about 7 hours of good-quality sleep does the trick.
5. Consider a supplement
When it comes to supporting our brains, we’ll take all the help we can get!
Some supplements appear to work alongside these other lifestyle changes to keep you sharp as you age. Gingko biloba and ginseng, both adaptogens, may help with mental clarity and mild age-related memory loss by improving blood circulation to your brain.
They also act as antioxidants to counteract damage from free radicals—substances that can cause harm to your body and brain in large amounts.*
Gabby is a nutritionist with a master’s degree in strategic communications. She loves using her nutrition-fluency with storytelling to encourage positive change. Before Persona, she worked at a mental health clinic helping clients manage stress, anxiety and other mental health issues through diet.