Everyone will experience some symptoms of an aging brain in their life as physical changes in the brain occur.
There are actions you can take to feel empowered to support your brain health regardless of how old you are right now.
Consider strategies like increasing your activity level, focusing on your nutrition, socializing more, caring for your teeth, and engaging with others in the name of brain health.
It’s completely normal for the body and mind to slow down a bit as we get older. However, the good news is that there are a variety of things you can do to help preserve the health and functionality of your brain. In fact, it’s never too late (or too early) to start implementing healthier lifestyle habits to support your brain. Consider how you can make space for these 5 smart strategies for brain health in your routine.
1. Challenge your mind
We live in a culture of increasing convenience. While this is nice for getting more things done, convenience doesn’t stimulate your brain, which turns out to be an important aspect of protecting brain health as we get older. In fact, challenging the brain regularly keeps it sharp. The brain begins to shrink around your 30s and 40s. The number of connections, or synapses, between neurons also decreases, which can affect your ability to learn and retain information.
Some brain volume change is a normal part of the aging process. However, you can help your brain form new neuronal connections by allowing it to be challenged. Changing your environment or otherwise retraining your brain to think through and solve new problems is key for protecting your brain from age-based decline.  
Consider the following challenges you can offer your brain:
Doing mental math versus using a calculator
Learning a new language
Taking a dance, art, computing, or other skills class
Try a new hobby, such as crocheting, pottery, or origami
Learn to play an instrument
Do crosswords, sudoku, or other brain games
Drive somewhere without using your navigation
Take a new route to a familiar destination
2. Move your body
Regular exercise has numerous physical benefits, such as supporting your heart and respiratory health, increasing strength and muscle mass, improving endurance, supporting healthy body weight, and promoting stronger bones. It’s also great for mental wellness, encouraging self-confidence and triggering the release of hormones that lift the mood.
Aim to move for at least 30-60 minutes five days per week. If you’re not already used to exercising that frequently, it can take some time to form this new habit, but eventually, it will be second nature.
Not sure where to start? Here are some ideas:
Group fitness classes
Yoga and stretching
Joining a local recreational sports league
Strength and resistance training
Walking your dog or with a group of friends
Bicycling or rollerblading
As you become more active, don’t forget to make room for intentional rest days. Getting enough rest, including quality sleep, is critical to allow your brain and body to rejuvenate and repair.
Much of the standard Western diet is based on ultra-processed foods and animal products that may be high in sodium, saturated fat, and added sugar. These types of foods also tend to lack important nutrients like fiber, antioxidants, certain essential fatty acids, and an array of vitamins and minerals.
Get back to eating foods as close to their natural form as possible. The easiest way to do this is to focus on whole plants, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes. Plant-rich diets like the Mediterranean eating pattern may help improve frontal executive function and support the aging brain.  
Here are some ways to add more foods for brain health to your day:
Toss greens into pasta dishes, soups, and sandwiches, or enjoy a side salad with your dinner
Make smoothies packed with nutrient-rich plant foods like berries, greens, and seeds
Swap plant milk instead of dairy for coffee, baking, cereal, and smoothies
Use crumbled tempeh or lentils instead of ground beef for chili, tacos, and Sloppy Joes
Snack on fresh fruit and vegetables served with hummus, guacamole, or salsa
You might also consider certain brain health supplements depending on the details of your diet. For example, if you don’t regularly consume fatty fish, consider an Omega-3 supplement with a minimum ratio of 60:40 EPA:DHA (EPA needs to be 60% or higher) AND At least 1000mg/d of EPA , as DHA may help support a healthy brain, and this ratio of EPA+DHA may help support a healthy mood. †  
A Vitamin B12 supplement may also be worth considering, especially if you follow a fully plant-based diet, as Vitamin B12 can help support a healthy brain and nervous system.  Additionally, many people may benefit from supplemental Choline, a nutrient found in meat eggs, and a few plant foods that may help support brain health and normal mood. Your brain and nervous system need it to regulate memory, mood, muscle control and other functions.†  
Staying socially active, with a small group of friends or larger communities you can be involved with, is important for feelings of connection and contribution. Being isolated can encourage low mood and loneliness, which has been found to promote cognition decline and memory loss. 
Consider these ways to stay engaged with others:
Plan a weekly coffee meet-up with close friends
Maintain a text chain with friends where you can share support and ask for encouragement
Volunteer at a local shelter or food bank
Join a local church community
Sign up for a club that meets regularly
Get to know your neighbors
5. Maintain dental hygiene
If you’re like many adults, you might be good about brushing your teeth but skip out on flossing until the dentist asks you how often you’re doing it. You may have heard that regular flossing is like weightlifting for your gums, but did you know it’s also important for your brain?
Research suggests that when we don’t take great care of our oral health, including brushing and flossing regularly, it can increase the risk of impaired cognition with age. This appears to be linked to conditions like cavities, gingivitis, and tooth loss. 
While the exact reason why is unclear, some researchers suggest that poor oral hygiene increases harmful bacteria exposure, nutritional deficiencies, and inflammation, promoting beta-amyloid plaques in the brain.  
Try to remember to:
Brush your teeth thoroughly at least twice daily
Floss daily to remove particles from the gums between your teeth
Consider a mouthwash to remove leftover potentially harmful bacteria
See your dentist at least once per year, even if you don’t have complaints
You only get one brain, so let’s take care of it! The fact is that all of us are going to age and experience a slowing down of our minds and bodies to some degree. However, there are plenty of things you can start doing right now to help keep your brain in the best shape possible. Some great places to start include staying physically active, challenging your brain, eating more whole plant foods, practicing oral hygiene, and engaging in your communities.
† These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
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Lauren specializes in plant-based living and vegan and vegetarian diets for all ages. She also enjoys writing about parenting and a wide variety of health, environmental, and nutrition topics. Find her at www.laurenpanoff.com.
Kalyn is a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist and a Science & Health Educator with the Medical and Scientific Communications team at Pharmavite. Her experience in the field of nutrition prior to joining Pharmavite has included community and public health education, media dietetics, and clinical practice in the areas of disordered eating, diabetes, women’s health, and general wellness. Kalyn received her Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from Arizona State University in Phoenix, Arizona, and completed her dietetic supervised practice in Maricopa County, AZ, with an emphasis on public health. Kalyn is certified in Integrative and Functional Nutrition through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, where she is an active member in addition to memberships in Dietitians in Functional Medicine, Women’s Health Dietitians, and the International Federation of Eating Disorder Dietitians.