How To Keep Mentally Active As You Age

27 Feb 2022 | Advice

As we get older it’s more important than ever to keep mentally active. Our brains lose neurons; the cells that send electrical impulses to and from the brain. 

Neurons begin to die from ‘old age’ and are not replaced (although research suggests that the roles of these neurons can be appropriated by other parts of the brain). Messages between neurons are sent at a slower speed and in time, the brain can become smaller and lighter.

However, studies have shown that mental decline is not inevitable, and you can help prevent it and reduce the risk of dementia with some simple good habits. Isn’t that good to know!

A brain that has become smaller and lighter with age can still function as effectively as ever, if we look after it. It’s believed that many of the age-related changes that affect the mind, such as memory loss, are lifestyle related.

3 simple ways to help keep you mentally active as you age

  1. Healthy Diet

Good nutrition helps to keep the brain in optimum condition. Eat a healthy and balanced diet from all food groups. 

  • Glucose is the brain’s sole energy source so ensure you get a healthy carbohydrate intake from foods such as brown rice, potatoes and oats.
  • Aim for a low-fat diet to prevent the buildup of bad cholesterol and potential atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries). Atherosclerosis can cause reduced blood flow to the brain, causing cognitive changes and possibly stroke.
  • The nutrients in leafy greens are thought to slow cognitive decline.
  • Berries contain flavanoids which help improve memory.
  • Your diet should contain sufficient B vitamins which, scientists have found, can slow down how fast we lose these brain cells (neurons).
  • Avoid smoking and excess alcohol.

You can read more about how what we eat affects our brain power here.

  1. Exercise

Keeping an active body is crucial if you want an active mind. Some conditions that can affect the brain’s ability to function, such as stroke, are associated with diet, obesity and sedentary lifestyle choices.

  • Doing 30 minutes of exercise a day can deliver an oxygen boost to the brain. This can even be done in 3 ten-minute stints.
  • Regular exercise can improve your memory and reaction times.
  • Regular exercise will also help keep your weight under control which can prevent conditions such as stroke and diabetes.
  1. Mental Stimulation

The more active your brain is, the better your memory. The phrase ‘use it or lose it’ is especially true where the brain is concerned.

Daily mental workouts are a great way to keep the brain active. Here are some ideas:

  • Read daily
  • Use your brain for your calculations rather than a calculator
  • Try completing a crossword each day
  • Enjoy games with friends, or even against the computer, such as bridge, chess, or bingo
  • Stay socially active with friends and family. It helps memory and concentration
  • Find a hobby such as gardening or crochet

Coping with changes in your mental ability

Change is to be expected as you age, but deterioration of your mind is not inevitable. Keeping yourself mentally, as well as physically, fit will make you feel better, improve your brain power – and help you to stay independent for longer.

To learn more see how to eat well as you age and 5 easy tips to stay physically and mentally active in later life