The cognitive aging process can impact our brains to decline over time, but there are lifestyle choices people can make to help slow down the process and help promote healthy brain function as they age.
Dr. Brett Osborn says the key is sending the body “healthy signals” that prevent inflammation and reduce “damage-inducing free radicals” that can inflict harm on our cells and DNA.
Dr. Osborn spoke on his 10 top recommended changes a person can make to slow brain aging and boost cognitive health:
1. Exercise regularly
Physical activity is beneficial for the memory centers of the brain and lowering cortisol levels, which in turn helps improve sleep and memory function.
2. Get plenty of mental stimulation
It is important to challenge the brain daily as it can help build “cognitive reserve”, which is the brain’s resistance to damage. Activities such as reading, dancing, and making puzzles are helpful for mental stimulation.
3. Eat a balanced diet
Nutrition plays a crucial role in our body and brain health, says Dr. Osborn. Eating a diet consisting of greens, protein and omega-3 fats can help promote healthy brain function.
4. Optimize your gut health
Dr. Osborn states the gut is often called our “second brain” and the health of our GI tract parallels with the health of our brain. Eating properly will produce optimal levels of serotonin that in turn regulate your appetite and mood.
5. Get enough quality sleep
Promoting quality sleep is essential for overall brain health. Osborne said those who sleep poorly are at much higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Some tips to get a good night’s sleep include limiting screen time, exercising regularly and avoiding heavy meals before bed.
6. Manage stress levels
Chronic stress has detrimental effects on brain health. High levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, can negatively affect the body such as suppressing our immune systems and elevating blood sugar. To manage stress, Osborne recommends meditation, yoga or deep breathing exercises to help reduce stress.
7. Engage socially
Social engagement can help keep your mind sharp and improve your overall well-being. Osborn says human-to-human interaction helps release ‘feel-good’ hormones such as dopamine and serotonin and helps our brains thrive.
8. Limit alcohol consumption
Osborn says alcohol is a “neurotoxin that accelerates brain aging in a multitude of ways. Limiting alcohol or avoiding it altogether can reduce inflammation in the body. However, there are some experts that believe light to moderate alcohol consumption possesses some brain benefits such as reduced diagnoses of cognitive impairment and fewer mortalities due to dementia.
9. Consider taking brain-boosting supplements
Creatine, caffeine, lion’s mane extract and ashwagandha are some brain-boosting supplements that Osborne uses to enhance brain performance. Osborn states It is important to discuss with your physician before taking new supplements as some may interfere with your current medications.
10. Balance hormone levels
Optimal levels of hormones are crucial for brain health as they can protect the brain from serious injuries and help reduce ‘brain-fog’. Osborn recommends ways to naturally increase hormone levels in the body such as strength training regularly, getting adequate sleep and eating a low-glycemic, anti-inflammatory diet with lots of healthy fats.
"While both mind and body tend to ‘malfunction’ as we age, the longer we stand on this earth, you can slow its rate of progression — or rather, regression," the doctor concluded.
"And it’s easier than you may believe. What keeps your body healthy, similarly keeps your brain healthy."