Five Ways to Help Your Brain Stay Young

Posted on May 20, 2021

Five ways to help your brain stay young

As we get older, so do our brains – and memory loss and cognitive decline can become a worry. Fortunately, there are things you can do to help maintain healthy brain function as you age, including keeping your brain busy, staying active and enjoying a balanced diet.


Keep the brain stimulated

Your brain is like a muscle and needs to be active to remain healthy. From reading to enjoying a puzzle, playing cards, any activity that is mentally stimulating could help keep your brain healthy and active. Watching too much television does little stimulation. 

Learning a language can help enhance cognitive abilities, protect against cognitive decline with ageing, according to one 2008 study.(1) Meanwhile, listening to music or completing a crossword could help prevent cognitive decline, with one study confirming that “if a person solves crosswords four times a week, she/he can reduce the risk of dementia by 47% compared with the person who does it only once a week”.(2)


Keep active

Many studies have suggested regular exercise as an effective way to prevent memory loss, with one study of older adults showing that six months of aerobic exercise like swimming, walking, running and cycling increases brain volume and the size of the hippocampus, which is an area in the brain involved in verbal memory and learning.(3,4)

Exercise is also a great way to take care of your mental health at any age, producing feel-good endorphins that help relieve stress and increase concentration. Exercise has also shown to change the brain to protect memory and thinking skills. 


Watch what you eat

The food on your plate can affect your brain as well as your body. Oily fish including salmon, mackerel and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and in particular DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid), which is essential for learning and memory.(5) Omega-3s may also slow age-related mental decline.(6)  Omega 3 can also be found in supplement form and vegan/vegetarian sources include flaxseeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds and walnuts which provide the omega 3 fatty acid called ALA (alpha linolenic acid), which gets converted in the body to EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). The recommendation by the NHS is to eat two portions of fish a week, of which one portion is oily fish. 

Vitamin B12 also found in meat, fish, milk, cheese and eggs contributes to normal psychological function. This vitamin can also be obtained from supplements.  

Vitamin D (found in oily fish, egg yolk and milk) and flavonoids (found in citrus fruit, dark chocolate and wine) may also help maintain thinking skills in older age.(7) 


Improve blood pressure

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, can increase your risk of cognitive decline, but there are lifestyle changes you can make to improve your blood pressure. Watch your weight, exercise regularly, reduce your alcohol consumption, maintain a healthy diet and manage stress to keep your blood pressure as low as possible. If you have any concerns, always speak to your GP.


Mind your blood sugar and cholesterol

Both diabetes and high levels of bad cholesterol (LDL- low density lipoprotein) have been associated with an increased risk of cognitive decline, so be mindful of your blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Regular exercise and a healthy, balanced diet are the best ways to keep these in check, but extra support is available from your GP if blood sugar or cholesterol remain a problem.


  1. Klimova, B.. (2018). Learning a Foreign Language: A Review on Recent Findings About Its Effect on the Enhancement of Cognitive Functions Among Healthy Older Individuals. Front Hum Neurosci. 12 (305). 
  2. Klimova, B., Valis, M. and Kuca, K. . (2017). Cognitive decline in normal aging and its prevention: a review on non-pharmacological lifestyle strategies. Clin Interv Aging. 12, 903–910. 
  3. Colcombe, S.J., Erickson, K. I. and Scalf, P.E. et al.. (2006). Aerobic Exercise Training Increases Brain Volume in Aging Humans. The Journals of Gerontology: Series A. 61 (11), 1166–1170. 
  4.  Ten Brinke, L. F., Niousha, B. and Nagamatsu, L.S. et al.. (2015). Aerobic Exercise Increases Hippocampal Volume in Older Women with Probable Mild Cognitive Impairment: A 6-Month Randomized Controlled Trial. Br J Sports Med. Author manuscript. 49 (4), 248–254.
  5. Rathod, R., Kale, A. and Joshi, S. . (2016). Novel insights into the effect of vitamin B₁₂ and omega-3 fatty acids on brain function. J Biomed Sci. 25 (23), 17.
  6. Cole, G. M., Ma, Q. and Frautschy, S. A. (2009). Omega-3 fatty acids and dementia. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids . 81 (2-3), 213-21.
  7. Dr. Michelle Luciano. (2020). Diet and brain health. Available: Last accessed 18th April 2021