Your brain is an endlessly complex organ that controls nearly everything you do and feel. Return the favor by helping to keep it strong, healthy and sharp as you get older. Here are five brain-boosters to help keep your mind working hard at any age:
1. THINK UP A SWEAT
Like any organ, your brain needs regular “exercise” to stay strong and healthy. Keep it challenged by trying new activities, learning (and remembering) new information and doing logic puzzles and memory-strengthening games. Try pursuing a new hobby, learning a new skill or taking on a new project at work that will force you to think differently. These kinds of mental exercises can help maintain brain cells and stimulate communication among them.
2. MAINTAIN A ‘MIND’FUL DIET
Unlike most muscles in your body, your brain never takes a break. In fact, it uses up to 20 percent of your body’s total energy expenditure. Fuel its around-the-clock activity with whole, quality foods, rich in antioxidants and low in saturated fats and trans fats. Antioxidants like vitamins C and E, found in most fruits and veggies—especially dark, leafy greens—help protect your brain from harmful free radicals that can damage your brain cells and speed up their aging process. Because more than half your brain is made of fat, oily fish like salmon and tuna are true brain food. They’re rich in the omega-3 fatty acids that form your brain’s myelin sheaths, which are the protective coating around nerves that help them quickly communicate with one another. Aim to get around three or four servings a week for optimal brain function. If you’re worried you’re not getting enough, you can fill in any gaps with fish oil supplements.
3. REMEMBER TO EXERCISE, EXERCISE TO REMEMBER
Getting in regular exercise is beneficial to your body in every way, including your cognitive functions. In fact, many studies suggest that physical activity influences cognitive health, thinking and judgement skills. For maximum mental (and physical) benefits, try to get around 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity—or 75 minutes of vigorous activity—a week, in addition to muscle strengthening exercises at least twice a week.
4. GIVE YOUR MIND A HEALTHY DOSE OF FRIENDSHIP
Studies have shown that higher levels of social engagement are associated with better cognitive function. Having and keeping up close connections with your friends and family helps stimulate your brain and calms stress signals. Engaging in healthy relationships with mutual trust can help soothe your mind in ways similar to meditation.
5. SUPPORT YOUR BRAIN WITH AN ADDED BOOST
To support a brain-healthy lifestyle, consider supplementing with natural ingredients for mental acuity and memory. Try a daily supplement of ginkgo biloba, an herb that increases blood flow to the brain and may help support mental sharpness. The macronutrient choline has also been shown to support memory function. It’s an essential nutrient for making the messenger chemical acetylcholine, which helps your brain send messages from one nerve cell to another.