About 25% of adults over age 50 take brain health supplements, but there is little to no evidence that they do anything to increase memory or other mental functions. On the other hand, many simple lifestyle changes have been proven to be effective.
Many brain health supplements have no research to back up their claims. The few that have been studied, like ginkgo biloba, have been shown to be useless. In some cases, they can even be dangerous, especially if you take blood thinners or have certain cancers or other conditions.
Stop wasting money on expensive supplements that don’t work. Try these natural strategies instead.
Diet and Exercise Strategies:
1. Go Mediterranean. The Mediterranean diet has received the most attention for its ability to boost cognitive functioning. However, any plan that focuses on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats will probably deliver similar results.
2. Eat fish. While fish supplements appear to have little effect, eating whole fish has many benefits, including lowering the risk of cognitive decline. Experts recommend having at least two servings of fish per week, including fatty species like salmon and tuna.
3. Exercise regularly. Physical activity helps to keep your brain and body in top condition. Find a variety of activities you enjoy. If you’re 65 or older, aim to work out for at least two and a half hours each week.
4. Do aerobics. Activities that increase your heart rate may be the most effective. You can bike, run, or play tennis. Go for a swim if you need a low impact activity that will protect your joints.
5. Manage your weight. Being overweight or obese may increase the risk of some types of dementia. Weigh yourself daily and stay slim with a sensible diet and workout routine.
6. See your doctor. While supplements are usually unnecessary, you may need them if you have a specific deficiency. For example, being a vegetarian or having gastric bypass surgery may lead to low levels of vitamin B12. Your physician can test and treat you for such conditions.
1. Sleep well. Lack of sleep or sleeping for more than 9 hours a night on a regular basis can have negative effects on brain health. Stick to a consistent bedtime that gives you 7 to 8 hours of rest.
2. Keep learning. Mental stimulation conditions your brain much like lifting weights builds your muscles. There is some initial evidence that speed-processing drills that train you to recognize objects quickly may be especially productive.
3. Socialize. Cultivating close relationships fights dementia and can help you feel happier and live longer. Spend time with family and friends. Volunteer in your community, visit your local senior center, or join a club that matches your personal interests.
4. Monitor blood pressure. High blood pressure can affect your brain. Follow your doctor’s recommendations for managing your condition.
5. Check your hearing. Moderate hearing loss may triple your risk for cognitive decline. Get tested regularly and wear your hearing aid if you need one.
6. Limit alcohol. Drinking too much is harmful to your body and brain, and you process alcohol more slowly as you age. Seniors who are healthy and not taking any medications are advised to have no more than 7 drinks a week or 1 to 2 drinks during a single day.
7. Quit smoking. Using tobacco makes you 79% more vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease. If you’ve tried to quit before, try again with a new combination of methods.
Taking a pill might seem easier than changing your lifestyle, but the natural approach is much more likely to help you stay sharp as you age. Eat a nutritious diet, exercise regularly, and talk with your doctor about your individual concerns.