13 easy ways to keep your brain young and your mind sharp

It’s common to worry about keeping your mind sharp and youthful at any age – but especially in your later years. The good news is that there are many ways to keep your brain young and your mind sharp – and promote healthy brain ageing no matter your life stage.

What are the main causes of brain ageing?

As you age, your brain naturally experiences some changes. Some parts shrink, while others may show signs of inflammation. There is a gradual decline in the number of connections between neurons, which can lead to slower processing and a decrease in memory capacity.

However, lifestyle factors also play a significant role. Chronic stress, lack of sleep, poor nutrition, and a sedentary lifestyle can all contribute to accelerated brain ageing.

According to Dr Yaakov Stern, a professor of neuropsychology at Columbia University, the brain is at its sharpest around age 25. However, this doesn’t mean that cognitive decline is inevitable as we age. By engaging in healthy habits, we can keep our minds sharp well into our later years.

How can I protect my brain as I age?

The big four brain savers are:

  • regular exercise to increase blood flow to the brain, which can help keep it healthy
  • getting enough sleep – lack of sleep can impair cognitive function
  • a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats
  • managing stress: it’s essential to find healthy ways to manage chronic stress, though activities such as meditation or exercise.

Which food is best for my brain?

“Eating a Mediterranean-style diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats, like those found in nuts and olive oil, has been associated with lower rates of cognitive decline and a reduced risk of developing dementia,” says Dr Stern.

In addition, certain foods have been linked to better brain health. These include fatty fish, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and blueberries, which are high in antioxidants.

Are there any other ways to slow brain ageing?

Yes, there are several other ways to slow brain ageing. Here are 13 of the best ways to keep your brain young.

  1. Challenge your brain regularly: crossword puzzles, Sudoku, games, and other mentally stimulating activities can help keep your mind sharp.
  2. Learn new skills: learning new skills, such as a new language or instrument, can help promote brain health.
  3. Socialise regularly: regular social interaction can help keep your mind sharp and reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
  4. Get enough sleep: sleep is essential, so make sure you’re getting enough rest.
  5. Exercise regularly: exercise is good for both the body and the mind. Regular exercise can help improve cognitive function and reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
  6. Eat a healthy diet: a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats can help promote brain health.
  7. Manage stress: chronic stress can accelerate brain ageing, so it’s essential to find healthy ways to manage stress.
  8. Stay curious: curiosity can help keep your mind active and engaged, so make sure to stay curious about the world around you.
  9. Stay positive: a positive outlook can help reduce stress and promote brain health.
  10. Keep mentally active: engage in mentally stimulating activities, such as reading, writing and playing card games  to help keep your mind sharp.
  11. Practice mindfulness: mindfulness can help reduce stress and promote brain health.
  12. Limit alcohol consumption: excessive alcohol consumption can be detrimental to cognitive health, so it’s essential to drink in moderation.
  13. Quit smoking: smoking can accelerate brain ageing, so quitting smoking is essential for maintaining cognitive health.

In addition, Dr Stern notes that “there is growing evidence that cognitive training programs, such as computerised games, can improve cognitive function in older adults”.

However, he cautions that not all games are created equal, and it’s essential to choose ones that have been scientifically validated.

“It’s also important to challenge yourself and step outside of your comfort zone. Taking on new challenges can help promote brain plasticity and improve cognitive function,” says Dr Stern.

By following these habits, you can promote cognitive health and delay mental ageing, and enjoy better quality of life in your later years.

Also read: Declining brain health can be reversed

What’s your secret to keeping your brain young? Why not share your tips in the comments section below?

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