Boost Brain Health: 6 Tips To Stay Sharp For Life

As we age, keeping our brains sharp is essential exercise. Here are some smart ideas for how to keep your 'bean' powered, happy and healthy.
Fluorescent brain-shaped light bulb

Losing brain sharpness is a scary dimension of getting older. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Many people over 60 are ‘as sharp as a tack.’ Curious how to keep your brain sharp?

Here are 6 simple steps to boost brain health you can start today.

Step 1: Break a Sweat

It might seem strange at first glance, but physical exercise is the key to maintaining a healthy, high-functioning brain. A study by the Department of Exercise Science at the University of Georgia found that even 20 minutes of exercise facilitates information processing and memory functions.

What’s the opposite of being physical? Being a couch potato. A sedentary lifestyle often leads to high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol. Poor health results in low blood flow to the brain and opens the door to degenerative neurological diseases.

On the other hand, physical exercise gets all the good things going. It increases the amount of oxygen and glucose that reaches the brain. This nourishes brain cells and promoting neuron growth. Recent studies suggest that rigorous exercise may stimulate otherwise dormant stem cells in the hippocampus, a part of the brain responsible for memory.

Take Away: Get moving. Get sweaty!

Step 2: Connect With People

Humans are a highly social species. Brain health improves when you’re interacting and connecting with other people. Socializing with friends helps reinforce neural pathways and promotes brain cell growth in areas related to memory.

The more diverse your group of friends, the more you are challenged. You’ll think more creatively, stay agile and boost tolerance with fresh perspectives. Stretch your social circle to include people who are younger, diverse, and think differently than you. It’s a great way to give your brain a super workout.

Take Away: Be Social! It’s good for your brain and your memory.

Step 3: Challenge Builds Agility

Happy senior couple playing chess

Recent research suggests that challenges build new pathways, agility and flexibility as we get older. The human brain responds and flexes, showing what is called, “neuroplasticity.”

By challenging your thinking, you can avoid falling into rigid mental routines. How can you do this? Spend just a few minutes a day doing things you haven’t done before. Examples include:

  • Work on a new hobby
  • Learn to paint, draw, or sketch
  • Learn a new language
  • Join a book club
  • Play chess, bridge or crossword puzzles

Keep learning. Exposing your brain to new information, different activities and fresh dimensions of creativity all work to keep your brain humming.

Take Away: Fresh input boosts brain agility.

Step 4: Refine Your Diet

What you eat has an enormous impact on how your brain functions. Refining your nutrition can boost brain function, as well as nurture your overall health, building healthy circulation, skin, hair and joints.

Best bet? Omega-3 fatty acids. The body cannot produce this, so make an effort to add it into your diet. Omega-3 is key for improving memory recall and repairing the myelin sheath that insulates your brain’s neurons.

The highest sources of omega-3 fatty acids are found in oily fish and fish oils. Nuts, flax seeds and chia seeds are also good sources.

What else? High protein foods. The amino acids in these foods are linked to the production of neurotransmitters associated with mental alertness.

Take Away: Get Omega-3 fatty acids and protein into diet. Your brain will thank you!

Step 5: Get Enough Sleep

X-ray of a sleeping man with a purple fluroscent brain

The human brain is highly active during sleep, and much of that work involves processing the things you have learned during the day. Without enough sleep, not only is your ability to retain that information compromised, you are also less likely to retain new information the following day, as well.

How much sleep do older adults need? Aim for at least seven hours of sleep each night. Be sure to get quality sleep. Simple steps to boost sleep quantity and quality include:

  • Avoid bright lights, consider black-out curtains.
  • Remove electronics in the bedroom.
  • Reduce loud noises.
  • Keep temperatures even.

These simple steps may improve the quality of your sleep, and support optimal brain function.

Take Away: Make sleep quality and quantity a top priority.

Step 6: Think Happy Thoughts

Psychological studies reveal that positive thinking has a measurable effect on cognitive ability. It’s not just that being happy feels good! The benefits of happiness include: release of beneficial hormones, lower blood pressure, and reduced oxidative damage caused by stress.

Meditation is linked to higher brain function. In controlled environments, experiments confirm that people who meditated daily tended to have faster, more efficient information processing, as well as a higher brain cell density in areas associated with memory.

Take Away: Happy thoughts and meditating are good for your brain, good for memory—and can help you live longer.

Assistance Club Summary

The #1 Take Away: You CAN boost your brain sharpness!

With these 6 steps, it’s possible to improve mental clarity, reduce the odds of developing dementia or Alzheimer's, and fight off signs of aging.

The 6 steps are: exercise, stay social, seek challenges, refine your diet, get quality sleep, and practice happiness. With these simple steps, you are being proactive about enjoying your life with a healthy, sharp mind.