It is often assumed that the human brain gets slower and becomes less sharp as it ages. There are even studies suggesting that the cognitive decline can start as early as our late 20s or early 30s. By the time we get to our 80s, fifty percent of us struggle with memory loss.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are a few things we can do to keep our minds sharp and stave off the confusion that often comes with age.
Nutrition – It’s not going to surprise anyone for me to say eating more plant-based is good for your brain. So I’ll just go ahead and get it out of the way first. Eliminate dairy, especially cheese. We’ve had this conversation many times. I’ve written about dairy here before and there is a whole chapter about it why it’s not healthy to consume in our book, How to Feed a Human The Whole Food Muscle Way. I’ll leave it at that for now.
Exercise – Getting your blood pumping creates good blood flow in your brain, allowing all the little capillaries to be awash in toxin-clearing, oxygen rich blood. It’s like a detox for your brain and creates cognitive resilience. But when I say “exercise” I don’t mean a leisurely stroll around the block while drinking coffee and chatting with a coworker. To remove brain fog you need to get your heart rate up, you need to feel tired. A 20-minute brisk walk, more days a week than not, will do it.
Sleep – You can will yourself to eat better and you can will yourself to exercise. You can’t will yourself to get deep restorative sleep. In fact, trying to only makes it slip farther away. But deep sleep is like a de-frag for your brain. You need eight hours. And before you roll your eyes and tell me you function fine on six, yes, lots of people function. Lots of people also deal with memory loss and cognitive decline. “Functioning” isn’t optimal.
Make your bedroom your “spot.” Your bed should be your safe place to let go of the day, relax and sleep. If you are thinking in bed, get up and write down (longhand, not on a screen) what you are thinking about so you can address it in the morning. Developing good sleep habits and patterns takes time – six to twelve months. And it starts with your bed only being used to two things, sleep and sex. Everything else should be done somewhere else.
Challenging mental activities – You brain needs to be stimulated. That means doing things that aren’t easy or thoughtless, things that are just at the edge of your ability. That’s how you build new connections and strengthens old ones. Learn new skills. Ballroom dance. Play an instrument (assuming you don’t always play the same old songs over and over). Take college classes that make you think. Talk to people who make you question what you know and encourage your brain to expand – because as long as it’s expanding, it’s not shrinking.
There is no reason to sit around dreading getting older because memory loss “runs in your family.” You have options, just like you do with most health issues. The only question is if you are going to take advantage of those options and do something about it while you still can.
Ready to bridge the gap between what you want to do and actually doing it? I can help. Send me and email at Health@RnRJourney.com and let’s have a free, 15-minute conversation about what level of support will move you towards your goals most effectively.
Dr Robyn is a former competitive volleyball player turned psychologist with continuing education in nutrition. Russ is a former competitive bodybuilder and trainer on the Mr. Olympia Tour. They are the co-founders of Whole Food Muscle and the authors of How to Feed a Human The Whole Food Muscle Way. To work with them one on one to improve your health and fitness or to have them speak at your event or organization email them at Health@RnRJourney.com.