As our age increases, unfortunately, our brain power decreases. But the good news is, there are plenty of ways you can keep your mind sharp as the years march on. In fact, a 2018 study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that even older patients in the early stages of memory loss were able to increase their memory test scores by up to 40 percent through cognitive training.
What exactly does that entail? Well, if you’re looking to up your brain game, try some of these science-backed ways to keep your mind sharp. It turns out, it doesn’t take much time to keep your brain young!
Do a puzzle
Trying to keep your brain active? Play games! A 2019 study published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry found that adults over 50 who do word and number puzzles have the equivalent brain function of someone up to 10 years younger than they actually are.
“We’ve found that the more regularly people engage with puzzles, such as crosswords and Sudoku, the sharper their performance is across a range of tasks assessing memory, attention, and reasoning,” lead researcher Dr. Anne Corbett, of the University of Exeter Medical School, said in a press release. “The improvements are particularly clear in the speed and accuracy of their performance.”
Get your olive oil fix
What you eat feeds your brain, too. And if you want to keep your mind sharp, you should consider the Mediterranean diet. One 2017 study published in Journal of the American Geriatrics Society showed that older people who ate a Mediterranean-style diet—which includes a healthy amount of olive oil—had a 35 percent lower risk of scoring poorly on cognitive tests than those with other diets. Even those with a moderate Mediterranean-style diet had a 15 percent lower risk.
Have more fish
Eating boiled or baked (not fried!) fish can be the key to improving your brain function, according to a 2008 study published in the journal Neurology. In the study, people who consumed omega-3-rich fish three times or more per week had a nearly 26 percent lower risk of having silent brain lesions that are often the cause of memory loss. Just one serving per week resulted in a 13 percent reduced risk.
Eat more salad
Fresh salads are the way to go when it comes to boosting your brain power. According to Gary Small, director of UCLA’s Longevity Center and author of The Alzheimer’s Prevention Program, the antioxidants in fruits and vegetables protect your brain from “wear and tear” and “the stress of aging.”
It’s recommended that folks over 30 eat two to three cups of vegetables and one to two cups of fruit each day, per the United States Department of Agriculture.
Get in more cardio
Running isn’t only good for your heart and waistline, it benefits your brain, too. Small says just 15 to 20 minutes of cardio a day can actually lower someone’s risk of Alzheimer’s. That’s because increased blood flow helps brain cells communicate better, he says.
And there’s research to prove it: A 2018 study published in Neurology showed the women who had high physical fitness during their midlife were 88 percent less likely to develop dementia. And those who did develop the disease saw their symptoms start an average of 11 years later than women who were less fit.