3 Simple Ways to Boost Your Brain Health

Amp up your brainpower with these expert-approved activities.

an older white man sits in a sun-lit room, reading a book and boosting his brain health in the process

Updated on June 10, 2022.

Whether you’re recently retired or just finding yourself with more downtime than usual, you might feel like your days are less mentally demanding than they’ve been in the past. One remedy you may have heard about are games that help keep your mind sharp. But let’s face it, not everyone has the time—or the patience—to carve out hours each day for sudoku.

Regardless of where you are in life and the time you have available, everyone can benefit from trying a few simple, science-backed brain-boosting tips, such as these from Iftekhar Ahmed, MD, a neurologist with Research Medical Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

Ask about your cholesterol levels at your next checkup

Keeping your cholesterol at healthy levels can help stave off dementia.

“If your cholesterol goes too high, the small blood vessels in your brain can get closed off,” says Dr. Ahmed, which can increase one’s risk for stroke and, in turn, block the oxygen supply to your cells. “This can damage brain and nerve cells, putting you at risk for memory loss and neurological problems.”

Optimal cholesterol levels vary depending on your overall health profile, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises the following as desirable ranges:

  • HDL, or “good” cholesterol, above 60
  • LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, between 60 and 100
  • Total cholesterol between 140 and 200

It’s important to get routine checks if you take cholesterol-lowering drugs like statins or if you’re at risk for heart disease. Work with a healthcare provider (HCP) to determine how often you should get tested.

Go for a 30-minute walk

“Walking has several health benefits,” says Ahmed. “It can improve your agility, lower your blood pressure and heart rate, increase your circulation, and protect against artery damage. These effects benefit your memory indirectly by helping your heart.”

Get more from your walks by inviting friends or taking along a furry pal. Strong social connections may lower your risk of depression and anxiety, decrease your odds of cognitive decline and dementia, while boosting your confidence along the way.

Join a book club and read more

“With cognitive function, if you don’t use it, you can lose it,” says Ahmed. Continuing education at every age may protect against dementia and even slow its effects.

One group of researchers from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago found that older adults who read regularly, visited libraries, and kept up letter writing were less likely to experience brain changes related to Alzheimer’s disease. According to the 2013 study published in Neurology, older adults who performed these activities most often had a rate of cognitive decline that was 32 percent lower than those with an average level of intellectual activity. Conversely, those who had the lowest amounts of brain-boosting activity had a 48 percent greater rate of cognitive decline.

“Read on a daily basis. Try to interpret and write down comments about what you’ve read,” suggests Ahmed. “It’s important to stay involved as much as you can, especially in retirement. Combining a social group with reading or exercising can be very beneficial.”

Another winning combination for brain health? Play a video game that challenges you mentally and physically at the same time, like fitness games for the Nintendo Switch.

Article sources open article sources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cholesterol: Getting Your Cholesterol Checked. Page last reviewed September 8, 2020.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Physical Activity Boosts Brain Health. Page last reviewed May 21, 2021.
Omura JD, Brown DR, McGuire LC, Taylor CA, Fulton JE, Carlson SA. Cross-sectional association between physical activity level and subjective cognitive decline among US adults aged ≥45 years, 2015. Prev Med. 2020;141:106279.
Tomoto T, Liu J, Tseng BY, et al. One-Year Aerobic Exercise Reduced Carotid Arterial Stiffness and Increased Cerebral Blood Flow in Amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment. J Alzheimers Dis. 2021;80(2):841-853.
Law CK, Lam FM, Chung RC, Pang MY. Physical exercise attenuates cognitive decline and reduces behavioural problems in people with mild cognitive impairment and dementia: a systematic review. J Physiother. 2020;66(1):9-18.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Social Determinants of Health and Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias. Page last reviewed: December 31, 2020.
Martino J, Pegg J, Frates EP. The Connection Prescription: Using the Power of Social Interactions and the Deep Desire for Connectedness to Empower Health and Wellness. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2015;11(6):466-475. Published 2015 Oct 7.
Wilson RS, Boyle PA, Yu L, Barnes LL, Schneider JA, Bennett DA. Life-span cognitive activity, neuropathologic burden, and cognitive aging. Neurology. 2013;81(4):314-321.

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