May 09, 2022
As we get older, it’s common to experience some level of cognitive decline. That may mean forgetting where you put something, having trouble remembering certain words, or even briefly losing track of where you are. But these aren’t necessarily the signs of a major health problem — often, they’re just part of getting older!
Fortunately, there are ways to help your brain stay sharper and healthier as you age. In fact, the key to maintaining a healthy brain is not to make one major lifestyle change, but rather to embrace a series of smaller changes that can add up in a big way.
Most of these small changes can actually be fun! Here are some of the top ways to keep your brain healthy:
Aerobic exercise is never a bad idea, but if you needed one more reason to go out for a jog, it’s your brain. Aerobic exercise helps slow shrinkage of the hippocampus, in particular, which deals with memory.
The health benefits of having a pet are many, but here’s one more to add to the list: having a pet delays cognitive decline. Pet ownership is especially valuable for verbal memory, but it also reduces stress and promotes physical activity.
High-intensity exercise is extremely beneficial, but any kind of activity — like walking the dog, gardening, or dancing — helps delay brain shrinkage as you get older. According to one study, active adults that clocked between 7 hours of low-intensity activity a week and 2 hours of high-intensity activity had the brain volume of someone 4 years younger than their inactive peers.
Watching too much television not only results in a sedentary lifestyle, but it can also lead to poor brain health as you age. The impact is most significant for those who watch excess TV in their 40s, 50s, and 60s, and the impact is significant: each hour of TV watching per day can lead to a .5 percent decline in your amount of gray matter — a part of your brain that helps with decision making.
Cognitive skills are a “use it or lose it” proposition: keep them working, and they’ll remain sharp. Playing games, particularly word games, can help challenge the language, reasoning, and logic areas of the brain and ensure you remain sharp as you age.
One of the best ways to avoid memory loss is to remain social. Maintaining relationships, being involved in your community, and volunteering are all great ways to keep your brain creative and active, which keeps it from declining prematurely.
On top of the suggestions mentioned above, getting enough sleep and maintaining a healthy diet are cornerstones for staying healthy as you get older. In addition to the many other health benefits sleep and good nutrition provide, they will help keep your brain healthy and functioning for years to come!