Living life to the fullest includes keeping the mind and body active at all ages and stages. Our brains actually shrink as we get older, especially the frontal cortex, which has a direct effect on cognitive ability. The good news is there is a long list of ways to keep your brain sharp as you age—probably more than you can, um, remember.
Give it a Workout
Researchers have found regular mental stimulation can build new connections between nerve cells, maybe even help the brain generate new cells. Who couldnt use a few more of those?
This doesnt mean you have to bury yourself in a crossword puzzle night after night, although thats a good idea. So is reading, game playing, puzzles, painting, playing music … anything that forces your brain to process or solve something beyond the plot twists in the latest Netflix series.
If you cant tear away from a screen, no worries. There are thousands of brainy apps out there for your device of choice.
Feed it Well
Heres another reason to improve your diet. Were not talking South Beach, Atkins, Alkaline or any other fad diet. (Although, the Mediterranean Diet may actually be brain-friendly. Two studies suggest it may lower incidence of Alzheimers.)
Bottom line is, like physical exercise, good nutrition helps your body help your mind. And it boils down to three familiar tenets:
- Limit your calories—lower intake has been linked to lower risk of reduced mental function in older adults.
- Reduce fat and cholesterol—saturated fats and cholesterol from animal sources and trans-fatty acids from partially hydrogenated oils (think potato chips, crackers, cookies) are bad for the brain.
- Binge on B vitamins—consistent intake of B6, B12 and folic acid (theres no B in there) can decrease the risk of developing dementia.
What Your Brain Likes to Eat and Drink
If all this sounds familiar, youre onto something. Whats good for your heart is good for your body and mind. Keep it sharp and it will feed your soul for years to come.