5 Tips for Keeping Your Mind Sharp as You Age

With a blood pressure cuff, a scale, and a blood draw, your doctor can tell a lot about the health of your heart. It’s not that easy to do a brain check: There are no simple tools for gauging your gray matter. Scientists can look inside, though, and what they see isn’t always pretty.

Age-related brain plaques, which may play a role in Alzheimer’s disease, can start forming in your 40s. And Alzheimer’s diagnoses may nearly triple by 2050, say researchers reporting in the journal Neurology. Keep your brain buff with these tips.

Love olive oil

In a study from Spain, men who ate about 4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil a day showed better language comprehension, attention, and abstract thinking than those on a low-fat diet. Its antioxidants (Italian olive oil has the most) may reduce brain inflammation.

Shovel in the salad

“Antioxidants in fruits and vegetables protect your brain from wear and tear and the stress of aging,” says Gary Small, M.D., director of the UCLA Longevity Center. A 40-year-old guy should consume at least 2 cups of fruit and 3 cups of vegetables a day, the USDA says.

Become a fishmonger

The omega-3 fatty acids in fish (or fish-oil supplements) help form the myelin sheaths that line your brain’s “wiring”; their breakdown is a factor in both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, says George Bartzokis, M.D., a professor of neuroscience at the UCLA Brain Research Institute.

Dine with wine

Drink a glass of red wine every day, and make it merlot. This type has the most resveratrol, an antioxidant that protects neurons from damage, says William J. Tippett, Ph.D., director of the University of Northern British Columbia Brain Research Unit. Dark chocolate has resveratrol too. Try 2 ounces.

Drop your blood pressure

The higher your systolic blood pressure is when you’re younger, the more likely you are to lose gray matter in key areas as you age, say scientists at UC Davis. Chronically high BP (above 120/80 mmHg) deprives your brain of blood and nutrients. Have your BP checked yearly after age 40.

 

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