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10 Ways to Keep Your Brain Young and Sharp

One of the most important aspects of longevity is healthy cognitive aging. We all want to age with vitality and a sharp mind.  The good news is, aging doesn’t have to come with cognitive decline, depression, or forgetfulness. You can do a lot, especially through diet and lifestyle, to keep your brain young and sharp….

Fact checked by Nattha Wannissorn

One of the most important aspects of longevity is healthy cognitive aging. We all want to age with vitality and a sharp mind. 

The good news is, aging doesn’t have to come with cognitive decline, depression, or forgetfulness. You can do a lot, especially through diet and lifestyle, to keep your brain young and sharp.

Two main anti-aging processes are neuroplasticity and autophagy. Neuroplasticity is your brain’s ability to change and adapt throughout life. Being highly intellectual early in life can increase neuroplasticity that extends further into old age, albeit at a decreased level.

Autophagy removes old and damaged brain cell components and replaces them with new and healthy ones. It can help sharpen your brain and is essential for memory, cognition, brain health, and the prevention of neurodegeneration.

We can also improve brain health through diet and lifestyle choices.

1. Exercise

A man and a woman full concentrated doing a plank with one hand | Bioptimizers

Regular exercise helps our brain remain healthy. Studies show exercise helps with learning and memory, protects against neurodegeneration, and alleviates depression. Here is a list of brain-related benefits exercise may provide: 

  • Increases neuroplasticity by strengthening and potentiating synapses (structures that allow neurons to pass the nerve signals to other neurons)
  • Strengthens and supports metabolism, blood vessel function, and the creation of new neurons (neurogenesis)
  • Induces brain growth factors and their cascades, such as neurotrophins, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and nerve growth factors that improve neuronal survival
  • Promotes neuroplasticity and reduces neuroinflammation

2. Sleep

Copious amounts of caffeine and sleeping in on the weekends cannot compensate for the impact of sleep deprivation on your brain. 

The glymphatic system comprises lymph and glial cells, which perform housekeeping roles in your brain. Your glymphatic system performs waste removal to keep your brain functioning well during sleep. The nighttime hormone melatonin is a clearing agent that stimulates the glymphatic. Your glymphatic system is mainly active during sleep and disengaged during wakefulness.

Several studies support the idea of memory consolidation and learning assimilation during sleep stages. According to them, sleeping is deeply involved in memory functions.

A study in mice examined the effect of daily short sleep followed by sleeping in on the weekends. They found that sleep deprivation caused lasting behavioral, neuroanatomical, and molecular abnormalities. 

Similar consequences appeared with sleep fragmentation in mice (repetitive short interruptions of sleep). A good night’s sleep and healthy sleep cycles are essential for keeping your brain young and healthy.

Related: A Better, Deeper Slumber: How Much Magnesium For Sleep?

3. Engaging in intellectual activities

Your brain is a “use it or lose it” organ. You can keep your brain active by learning new skills such as quilting or languages. Also, you can engage in new hobbies. 

Taking these measures protects the brain from the pathology of neurodegenerative diseases. Known as “cognitive reserve,” some believe this may also help the brain become more adaptable in some mental functions.

A man viewing concentrated viewing a vision board

4. Meditation

Meditation originated in India and became widespread in Western societies, including the USA. Meditation has many beneficial effects, both mental and physical. Health benefits of meditation include:

  • Stress reduction
  • Decreased anxiety
  • Decreased depression
  • Reduced pain (both physical and psychological)
  • Improved memory
  • Increased efficiency

Meditation also increases blood flow to the brain and increases attention. A study found that meditators were faster on all tasks. As we age, gray matter, which contains neurons, decreases. The meditation experience increases gray matter in the brain.

5. Sex

More frequent sexual activity in older adults improves brain function. People with regular sexual activity scored higher on verbal fluency and visual perception.

A study conducted on 28 men and 45 women measured different patterns of brain function. These tests focused on attention, memory, fluency, language, and visuospatial ability. Frequent sexual activity did not impact memory, language, and attention. Yet, it improved visuospatial ability, which relates to identifying relationships between visual and spatial objects, such as drawing and buttoning shirts. 

Also, sexual activity influences verbal fluency. We need more research on the correlation between brain health and sexual activity.

6. Dietary antioxidants

The brain uses a lot of oxygen and has high metabolic activity. Thus, it is more at risk of free radical damage than any other body area. Free radical damage to brain cells can result in memory loss. 

Antioxidants may help counteract the unstable molecules that comprise free radicals. They may help reverse some symptoms of aging, such as memory loss.

Beta-amyloid is a type of abnormal protein clump found in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients. Flavonoids luteolin and diosmin reduce levels of beta-amyloid in the brain. Luteolin is present in green peppers and tomatoes, and lemons are high in diosmin. Other antioxidant-rich foods include artichoke, cilantro, cinnamon, and citrus fruit.

7. Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential components of cell membranes, making them more flexible. They are present in brain cells and can improve the structure of brain cells (neurons). They also make mitochondria work better.

Omega-3 may help maintain myelin sheath health. Myelin is the material that surrounds nerves, which allows for efficient electrical signal conduction. Omega-3 boosts the function of nerve membranes and contributes to the regrowth of the myelin sheath.

People with high Omega-3 fatty acid levels have more cerebral blood flow than those with less Omega-3. These fatty acids also improve brain function, suggesting a diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids can improve brainpower. Foods rich in these acids include oily fish such as salmon and flaxseeds.

To find out more about a diet that supports normal brain function, you may want to check out this article.

Table full with Omega 3 rich foods like hard boiled eggs, meat, salmon, pickles, greens, avocado

8. Ketogenic diet

Unlike other body cells, brain cells cannot use fatty acids as an energy source. The primary energy source for brain cells is glucose, however, neurons can also use ketones as fuel. The ketogenic diet is low in carbs and proteins and very high in fat to increase blood ketone levels.

The ketogenic diet is an excellent choice to reduce the risk of mitochondrial problems and increase cellular energy. Mitochondria is comfortable with glucose as a source of energy. However, if we shift to ketones as an energy source, old and weak mitochondria die and are replaced with new and stronger ones, which results in greater energy production.

The keto diet may also:

  • Promotes a balanced inflammatory response
  • Increase concentration
  • Increase focus and mental clarity
  • Slows down aging
  • Mitigate the risk of chronic diseases related to poor blood sugar control

Also, it seems to be linked with autophagy, as ketones are believed to induce neuronal macroautophagy as a rational strategy to prevent neurodegenerative disorders and eliminate damaged mitochondria.

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is an essential protein. It influences brain function and the peripheral nervous system, prevents the death of brain cells, induces the growth of new neurons and synapses, and supports cognitive function. Studies show a keto diet can directly increase BDNF levels due to less dependence on glucose, as ketones better increase the upregulation of BDNF.

The ketogenic diet is beneficial in treating brain disorders like Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy. We need more research before drawing definite conclusions.

9. Resveratrol

Resveratrol is a polyphenol found in the skin of grapes, red berries, and nuts. It supports neuroplasticity and improves brain function. 

It can improve cognition and mood and enhance hippocampal plasticity. Yet, some results show it to have the opposite effect, and we need further research.

Sir2 (silent information regulator 2) is an anti-aging protein that maintains stability and homeostasis under challenging conditions, such as fasting and caloric restrictions. Resveratrol activates Sir2. 

A handful of nuts with a nutcraker and berries

10. Magnesium

Because magnesium participates in over 300 reactions in your body, it’s also crucial for brain function. Usually, it inhibits the actions of the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate. Magnesium blocks the calcium channel of the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) glutamate receptor. 

The NMDA receptor regulates calcium entry into the postsynaptic neuron. This is important for protecting neurons from day-to-day stress and toxic exposure. Both of these are connected with reducing brain magnesium levels and the influx of glutamate and calcium into the neuron. 

Magnesium also relaxes the blood vessels and improves cerebral blood flow. Apart from that, magnesium plays a vital role in recovering from brain injury. It may also improve mood. 

You can find magnesium in:

  • Greens
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Dry beans
  • Whole grains 

Roughly 75% of Americans don’t get the recommended daily magnesium intake. 

To ensure that you take healthy magnesium levels, take Magnesium Breakthrough to help you achieve an optimized mind and body. It contains seven forms of magnesium that will help you with:

  • Balanced stress response and healthy stress resilience
  • Calmness and a healthy relaxation response
  • Healthy sleep onset and quality
  • Immune system balance readiness
  • Cardiovascular health
  • Bone health
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