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Keep Your Brain Healthy and Sharp At Any Age—5 Tips

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Memory lapses can happen to all of us, at any age. From forgetting the name of a peer mid-conversation, making two trips to the kitchen because you forgot why you were in there the first time around, or losing your train of thought on the phone, we’ve all experienced a slip in memory, slight or perhaps more serious.

Despite how frustrating or scary lapses in memory and cognitive changes can be, decades of research on the topic show we don’t have to regard cognitive changes as inevitable. Our brains continue forming new neurological connections all our lives, and we can help prevent cognitive decline and keep our minds active and sharp through a number of strategies and daily habits.

1. Stay curious!


Exercising your brain helps maintain your cells and stimulates communication between them. Outside of work, starting a new hobby, volunteering, or mentoring are all options to get those new connections started upstairs. New hobbies can range from gardening or cycling to playing chess or making scrapbooks—so long as the activity is new to you, it will engage your brain while providing you with a new hobby you can draw on for years to come.

If starting a new hobby sounds daunting, try ‘tweaking’ an existing hobby or leisure activity! Enjoy cooking? Give baking a whirl! Spend downtime painting? Try your hand at drawing.

2. Optimize Your Brain Use


Looking for your keys every morning, struggling to keep your schedule in check, or picking up dirty laundry in several areas of your household? Stop wasting your brainpower (and your time)!

We know it’s easier said than done, but by creating consistent, organized spots for items in your home and a system for your responsibilities and plans, you’ll have the mental capacity for more important things—and you’ll feel more relaxed in your free time! Less stress and more finesse.

3. Socialize (As Safely As Possible)


Studies have shown socially active adults tend to fare better cognitively than their more introverted counterparts, and as a result, are less susceptible to the onset of Alzheimer’s. Interacting with other persons and maintaining close relationships requires brainpower. Listening, responding, reacting, resolving conflicts or miscommunications—all of these things exercise the brain.

Take care of your existing relationships and get out there and form some new connections! 

4. Ignore the Pessimism


As we mentioned earlier, cognitive decline can often be slowed or prevented! Middle-aged and older adults often find themselves losing hope, accepting “senior moments,” getting embarrassed, ashamed or even talking down about themselves due to their memory. This can only serve to harm you and we strongly recommend you practice positive thinking, patience and give yourself some grace. We’re all human and there’s no reason to be ashamed. With a little effort and plenty of positive thinking, you can take control and manage your situation more successfully.

Start with daily to-do lists that aren’t daunting. Create a mnemonic device of a shortlist to keep you going throughout the day. “R.I.C.E” is an example, reminding you when injured, “Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.” There are a number of ways we can work with our brain to get a handle on our memory!

5. Feed Yourself Brain-Healthy Nutrients


It’s an understatement to say food is important. It’s crucial. And you’re not doing your brain any favors by snacking on sugar-loaded foods or taking that sweet, easy stroll through the drive-thru. While cooking nutrient-rich meals consistently may sound exhausting, there are ways to make it fun, or even cut corners to make eating healthier easier.

As far as what to buy goes, following a Mediterranean-like diet is considered one of the best food regimens for your mental health. Research suggests a diet high in unsaturated fats, fruits and veggies, nuts, whole grains, fish, white meats and olive oil, and a low intake of red meat and dairy products can help remove protein buildup in the brain associated with neurodegenerative diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s.

A recent study by The American Academy of Neurology investigated whether following a Mediterranean-like diet relates to cognitive functions and in vivo biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers conducted cognitive tests on participants following the diet and those who did not. Participants following the Mediterranean diet performed better on all cognitive tests, showing less protein biomarkers associated with Alzheimer’s and less brain shrinkage. Findings suggest eating nutrient-rich foods provides the brain (and the body) with the healthy nutrients it needs to function at optimal levels.

More Mood and Brain-Boosting Suggestions:

  • Get outside once a day. Go for a 30-minute walk, no phone, and engage your surroundings and your senses. Smell the flowers or the fresh-cut grass, listen to the birds or cars passing by—whatever it may be, do it for you!
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! We can’t think straight when we’re thirsty—it’s been tested. Make sure you’ve always got water on-hand or nearby and you’re drinking the recommended amount of water per day (Roughly 11.5 cups for women, 15.5 cups for men – this recommendation includes fluids from water, other beverages and food).
  • Sleeeeeep!! Your brain needs time to declutter and rejuvenate. Try for 7-8 hours a night. If getting 7-8 hours a night is a challenge, consider working a power nap into your daily routine if you’re able.
  • Stay on top of your health conditions and body’s needs. If you have any existing medical conditions, managing your medications, taking them as directed and talking with your doctor about any concerns or questions you may have is crucial. You may find it helpful to record your health in a daily journal, making note of any changes you notice in your cognitive functioning that you or a loved one may be noticing.

Remember: stay positive, feed your body and brain nutrient-rich foods, get outside, see your friends and family and be patient with yourself! Take steps to live a balanced, well-rounded life and you may find you’ve forgotten all about your memory worries!

If your cognitive functioning is inhibiting your ability to go about your day-to-day life, we’re here to help ease your mind. Riverside Medical Clinic’s board-certified neurologists are at the top of the field and offer a wealth of experience to provide you with the best care. Explore our Neurology department and the services offered here. When you’re ready, we’re here to help.

Riverside Medical Clinic