How to “Train” Your Brain For a Lifetime

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older active adults with family

As we age, our cognition dips, and our working memory and processing speed slows. It’s a natural part of getting older. Some people think there’s no way to improve our cognitive function, but they’d be wrong. The truth is that you’re never too old to give your brain a good workout. Research shows that keeping your brain active helps maintain cognitive function — meaning that developing good lifestyle habits such as learning new things, participating in leisure activities, and engaging intellectually are associated with having stronger cognitive abilities. Here are some things you can start doing to help sharpen and “train” your brain, not just today, but for a lifetime.

1. Eat brain-healthy power foods

An occasional chip or hamburger won’t hurt you, but it’s important to have a well-rounded, nutrient-rich diet to ensure your brain is working at top function. Whole grains, salmon, and broccoli are well-known brain superfoods you should add to your diet as often as possible. Reach for nuts, blueberries, and avocados when you crave a snack. And don’t forget the dark chocolate! In moderation, dark chocolate (85% cocoa or more) provides your body and brain with antioxidants, helps improves memory, and is delicious to boot!

Resource: Eat Smart for a Healthier Brain

2. Spend time with people who make you happy

When we get older, it’s easy to lose touch with friends and family. People become busy. But as a highly social species, we need to stay connected and bonded with the people we love as an innate means of survival. When we interact with other humans, our brain releases oxytocin, which supports the brain’s serotonin levels, which in turn helps increase our sense of joy. And, as we’ve learned through decades of hands-on work at NACD, touch can also help stimulate memory, reduce stress, and lower blood pressure. Carve some time out of your schedule to call an old friend, send an e-mail to your kids, or drop in to see your grandkids for a big hug. Your brain will thank you for it.

3. Stay physically active

We all know heart-healthy activities help prevent heart disease and stroke, but did you know they’re also really good for your brain, too? Regular aerobic exercise helps increase blood flow, boost white matter, improve memory, and — most importantly — enhance cognitive function.

If the thought of starting an exercise regime scares you, don’t worry. You don’t have to start running marathons to get the benefits of a healthy brain. Walking with a friend a few times a week, taking an early morning swim at your local community center, or signing up for the dance class you’ve always wanted to take will help get your neurons moving. And remember: It’s never too late to start!

Resource: American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults

By using a program like Simply Smarter daily, you can help take steps to improve your audio processing, visual processing, and working memory through sequential processing. Sign up for a free trial today!