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How to Support Brain Health as You Age

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Memory is fragile. Its speed and accuracy begin to slip in your 20s—and will keep declining. It’s normal. But don’t be mistaken. Just because it’s normal doesn't necessarily mean that you can’t stall or maybe even reverse the decline.

As it turns out, there are plenty of effective strategies that support long-term cognitive health. Below, find seven that’ll help you get started right away.

#1: Stay physically active 

Movement is great for your brain. Research consistently shows that exercise increases neurons in the hippocampus (the area of the brain that’s essential for memory creation and storage) and improves thinking skills. Regular physical activity also helps slow the usual brain volume loss as we age. This may, in turn, prevent age-related memory loss and possibly lower the risk of cognitive disorders like Alzheimer's disease. 

So, you know what to do. Start loving exercise, and hit those physical activity guidelines: at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity activity!

#2: Maintain strong relationships and social ties 

Humans are social animals. Meaning? When you're socially isolated (e.g., on bad terms with your spouse or cut off from friends or family), your brain pays the price. Research agrees. Feelings of loneliness and social isolation are not only linked to depression but also increase the risk of dementia.

Don't worry if you're not entirely comfortable with face-to-face meetings. There are many other ways to connect with others, including video chatting, virtual game nights, and old-school snail mail.

#3: Optimize your ability to hear and see (if necessary) 

Admittedly, socializing can get tricky when age-related hearing and vision loss come into play. It can be frustrating to not hear conversations clearly or be able to read a restaurant menu. This, in turn, highlights the importance of optimizing your ability to hear and see as you age—particularly since research highlights a link between hearing and vision impairment and an increased risk of dementia.

So, do visit a healthcare professional if you’re unable to see or hear quite as well as you used to. They’ll have the necessary expertise to get you the help you need (e.g., refer you to a trained audiologist for hearing aids or an ophthalmologist for cataract surgery).

#4: Consume a Mediterranean diet 

According to a 2017 study published in Neurology, researchers found that the more closely participants adhered to a Mediterranean-style diet, the less they suffered from brain volume loss over a three-year timespan. A 2020 study published in Experimental Gerontology agrees: researchers found a strong association between close adherence to the diet with higher scores on a range of cognitive tests among adults in their late 70s.

#5: Learn new things 

Learning something new (it could be anything—a skill, language, sport, etc.) will help keep your brain cells on their A-game. More specifically, your brain may increase the density of your myelin, or white brain matter, and form more connections between brain cells in response to novel cognitive stimulation. Think you (and your brain) are too old for that? 

Research shows your brain can learn and grow regardless of how many candles on your birthday cake, a phenomenon known as "neuroplasticity." Here's further proof: in this 2019 study, participants aged 59 to 79 showed a significant improvement in cognitive functioning and more neuroplasticity after spending four months learning a new language.

#6: Limit alcohol consumption

Researchers and health experts believed moderate drinking to be "safer" for a long time, with some studies even suggesting that it might lower the risk of all-cause dementia.

But a recent 2021 study involving more than 25,000 people in the UK overturned the idea. Researchers concluded that any alcohol, at all, adversely affects nearly every part of the brain. In effect, the more you drink, the worse off your brain. The takeaway is clear: stay clear of alcohol to protect your brain.

#7: Manage stress levels 

Chronic stress can seriously hurt your brain. Beyond causing imbalances in your gray and white brain matter, killing brain cells, and impacting your short-term memory, stress is also closely linked to depression and anxiety, which could increase the risk of dementia.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach for stress relief, effective strategies to consider include meditation, yoga, journaling, therapy, and, of course, trusty CBD (wink).

Psst: Click here to learn more about other natural ways to support brain function.

 

 

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