Tips for Keeping Your Mind Sharp As You Age
Your brain starts to shrink after age 30.
Fortunately, this process is so slow that cognitive decline is usually not evident until later in life. (1)
Brain aging is influenced by many things: diet, physical activity, sleep, genetics, stress, environmental hazards, cognitive and social engagement, and more. At the biochemical level, cumulative inflammation and oxidative stress causes damage to brain and nerve cells. Over time, injury to cellular structures such as DNA, the energy-producing mitochondria, and the protective cell membranes of neurons can lead to symptoms like forgetfulness, confusion, brain fog, mood changes, and changes in perception using any of the five senses.
Unfortunately, there is no single pill, food, or activity that can stave off brain decline or dementia. Medications can be used to temporarily treat symptoms of cognitive decline, but much to the chagrin of big pharma, there are no drugs or supplements that can reliably prevent or reverse it.
However, below are a few things you could do in combination to protect your aging brain. (2-5)
6 Ways to Protect Your Aging Brain
1. Engage in physical activity daily; include strength training, balance, and aerobic activities
- Try: Group fitness classes, join a pickle-ball league, walking, yoga, snowshoeing, swimming, water aerobics,
2. Get 6-8 hours of sleep every night
- Try: Turning off devices 1-hr before bedtime, chamomile or lemon balm tea, prayer or meditation before bed, sunlight exposure in the morning, avoiding long naps during the day
3. Spend time with friends and family as much as possible
- Try: Game or bridge night, schedule a girls’ or guys’ nights, regular phone or video calls, eat dinner with family every night
4. Engage in activities which exercise the brain
- Try: Join a book club, do crosswords or puzzles while enjoying a cup of tea, download the Duolingo app and learn a new language, learn a new musical instrument, try one of the many brain-training apps, play mahjong or other games with friends
5. Reduce inflammatory cooking methods: Cook in a way to reduce AGEs (advanced glycation end-products). AGEs are molecules created from high-heat cooking of proteins and fats which can increase oxidative stress and inflammation
- Try: Moist cooking methods like poaching, steaming, boiling, or stewing, use acidic marinades for meat
6. Diet: Follow a “MIND” dietary pattern which emphasizes consumption of foods that have been associated with dementia prevention.
- The MIND dietary pattern (MedDiet-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) emphasizes consumption of food sources of antioxidants, B-vitamins, and healthy fats, all of which have been found to be neuroprotective. Key components include berries, vegetables (especially green leafy vegetables), nuts, beans, whole grains, seafood, poultry, olive oil, and wine. The consumption of red meats, butter/margarine, cheese, pastries/sweets and fried/fast foods are discouraged.
There is preliminary data that a low-carb, ketogenic-style diet can be helpful for brain health. However, but this way of eating is much more restrictive and difficult to keep up over the long-term.
Even though aging is inevitable, it is possible to slow it down and protect your brain function long into your golden years.
How will you protect your brain?
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The information contained in this article is intended for educational and entertainment purposes only. It is not to be construed as personalized nutritional advice nor intended to be a substitute for proper health and medical care. Please consult your physician or a qualified health care professional for support for brain health or if you suspect cognitive issues.