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How to Preserve or Improve Brain Health Even as You Age

Your brain health doesn't have to deteriorate with age. Learn how to stay mentally sharp and focused through your golden years in this article.

How to Preserve or Improve Brain Health Even as You Age

Aging is not kind to our brains.

Starting in our 30s, each passing year shrinks our brain (particularly in the frontal cortex) — bringing decidedly un-fun things like memory decline, a lack of mental clarity, an inability to focus, and more. And there, ominously lurking in the background, is also the big "D" word.

Uh, no. Not that “D”.

But dementia, the loss of cognitive functioning to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities.

That said, just because brain shrinkage, cognitive decline, and a higher risk of dementia are expected with age doesn’t mean you can't try to preserve and/or even improve your brain health.

Here are 3 things you could do that'll help with brain health.

#1: Live a healthy lifestyle

“Live a healthy lifestyle.” — sounds criminally vague.

But don’t worry, because you can find detailed guidelines on what a brain-health-optimizing “healthy lifestyle” looks like in this 2023 study published in the BMJ.

After following more than 29,000 people over 10 years, the researchers found that those who:

🏃 Did 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise weekly
🧑‍🤝‍🧑 Had social contact twice weekly
♟️ Engaged in a mentally challenging activity twice weekly
🍷 Did not smoke or drink alcohol

… had a 30% lower risk of memory decline compared to those who did not.

Even more promising, individuals who were carriers of the APOE ε4 gene (i.e., the strongest genetic risk factor for cognitive problems, dementia, and Alzheimer’s) had lower rates of decline if they engaged in the healthy lifestyle behaviors listed above.

#2: Eat blueberries 🫐

Now, what about on the diet front? Is there anything you could eat that’ll help with brain health?

One word: blueberries.

Yes, really. (Sidenote: is it just us, or is it impossible to think of blueberries without visualizing Violet’s ridiculous and well-deserved expansion into a giant blueberry in Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory? Just us? 👀)

Back to business.

Nearly a dozen studies suggest that blueberries are packed with:

  • Antioxidants that support healthy aging and
  • Flavonoids that support memory and learning, protect your brain from disease, prevent early decline, and provide vital nutrients that help with brain growth

Better still, there’s also evidence that blueberries help fight dementia. But wait.

How much blueberries would you need to eat? They’re not exactly cheap fruits, after all.

Thankfully, it appears just 120 grams (roughly ¾ cup) of blueberries is enough to help with your attention, verbal comprehension, plus memory retention and recall.

Still worried about the cost? Here are a few tips that may help:

1️⃣ You don’t need to buy organic
2️⃣ Choose frozen over fresh
3️⃣ Consider a mix of blueberries and other brain-health-boosting fruits*

Other brain-health-boosting fruits? There are more?

Yes, according to a 2016 study published in Scientifica, the following may also guard against age-associated cognitive decline and cognitive conditions:

  • Strawberries
  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries
  • Plum
  • Prunes
  • Cherries
  • Oranges
  • Red grapes
  • Pomegranates

#3: Strength train

To maximally preserve and/or improve your brain health as you age, don’t just rely on aerobic exercise (i.e., cardio) to get the job done. You’d also need strength training.

Proof? A 2016 study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The researchers recruited 100 participants (68 women and 32 men) with mild cognitive impairment between 55 and 86 years old — and randomly assigned them to 2 groups:

  • Group 1:  Weight training 2-3x weekly for 6 months (lifting 80% of the maximum amount they could)
  • Group 2: Stretching exercises, aka “sham exercises”, 2-3x weekly for 6 months

All participants underwent 2 rounds of cognitive tests: 1 round before the intervention for baseline readings and the second round after intervention for comparison’s sake.

Here are the study’s 3 key findings:

1️⃣ Group 1 (i.e., weight training group) scored significantly higher at the end of the study than at the beginning and retained that gain at 12 months.

2️⃣ Those who experienced the greatest gains in strength also saw the greatest increase in test scores.

3️⃣ Group 2 (i.e., stretching exercises group) scored lower at the end of the study than at the beginning (disclaimer: the decrease did not reach statistical significance).

Hmm. Looking at the participants’ ages … if you’re still relatively young (e.g., in your 20s/30s), you may be tempted to shelve strength training plans for later.

But don’t.

The thing is that, if you don’t use it, your body starts losing muscle mass starting as early as your 30s. Keep it up, and you’re at increased risk for sarcopenia, which could see you running into symptoms like:

  • Impaired motor function
  • Difficulty in walking
  • Slow walking speed
  • Difficulty in carrying and lifting heavy items
  • Increase in falls

Imaginably, all that will make it extra difficult for you to live a healthy lifestyle necessary for boosting brain health.

Bottom line? Start strength training now.

And here are 3 things you need to do to maximize muscle growth during those training sessions:

How to Maximize Muscle Growth During Any Workout Session
We all want to make the most of our gym sessions. Here are 3 things you must do in any workout session to maximize your muscle growth results.

What about brain health supplements?

Most brain health supplements contain the same old, tired ingredients.

Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B, vitamin E, a natural nootropic (think: ginkgo biloba or ginseng), etc.

But, like most workout supplements, there’s just no solid evidence that these work — especially if you’re already eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet that gives your body the micronutrients it needs.

TBH, if you really wanted to try a brain health supplement, perhaps you could consider creatine. There is some evidence that it could enhance your cognitive functions and ward off neurological disorders.

Plus, even if it doesn’t give results on the brain health bit, at least you know it’ll improve your athletic performance and body composition.

Interested in learning more about creatine? Your wish is our command:

Ultimate Guide To Creatine And Its Benefits
Wondering if creatine is worth your money? Here’s everything you need to need about it - including its benefits, dosage, and side effects - before buying.
4 Surprising Benefits of Creatine You Didn’t Know About
Creatine: only good for enhancing athletic performance? Nope. Here are 4 non-sports-related creatine benefits that’ll see have you going, “Wha—?”
Does Creatine Cause Hair Loss? Shockingly, Science Says No
Does creatine cause hair loss? Contrary to popular belief — and an oft-cited 2009 study — no. Understand how we got so mistaken in this article.
Should You Mix Creatine with Caffeine?
Mix creatine with caffeine: yes or no? Find out if these two are BFFs or mortal enemies here, so you make the most of your supplements.

Actively work on your brain health with GymStreak

There’s a lot you can do to take care of your brain health.

Seen another way, though, it could also mean there’s a lot you should do for your brain health — and that can be an overwhelming thought. GymStreak can’t take all the load off from you, but it sure can help lighten it. How?

By tailoring your strength training + nutrition plans according to your goals and preferences. So, all you need to do is execute and see results.

Sounds good? Check it out below:

Workout Programming + Nutrition Tracking, Off Your Hands

*sigh of relief* We'll guide you through it all — step-by-step. Just download the app, and you'll be making progress toward your dream body like never before.

References

A Review on Aging, Sarcopenia, Falls, and Resistance Training in Community-Dwelling Older Adults - PMC. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8775372/. Accessed 31 Oct. 2023.

Hein, Sabine, et al. “Systematic Review of the Effects of Blueberry on Cognitive Performance as We Age.” The Journals of Gerontology. Series A, Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, vol. 74, no. 7, June 2019, pp. 984–95. PubMed, https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/glz082.

Jia, Jianping, et al. “Association between Healthy Lifestyle and Memory Decline in Older Adults: 10 Year, Population Based, Prospective Cohort Study.” BMJ, vol. 380, Jan. 2023, p. e072691. www.bmj.com, https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj-2022-072691.

Keservani, Raj K., et al. “Medicinal Effect of Nutraceutical Fruits for the Cognition and Brain Health.” Scientifica, vol. 2016, 2016, p. 3109254. PubMed Central, https://doi.org/10.1155/2016/3109254.

Krikorian, Robert, et al. “Blueberry Supplementation in Midlife for Dementia Risk Reduction.” Nutrients, vol. 14, no. 8, Apr. 2022, p. 1619. PubMed Central, https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14081619.

Mavros, Yorgi, et al. “Mediation of Cognitive Function Improvements by Strength Gains After Resistance Training in Older Adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment: Outcomes of the Study of Mental and Resistance Training.” Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, vol. 65, no. 3, 2017, pp. 550–59. Wiley Online Library, https://doi.org/10.1111/jgs.14542.

Peters, R. “Ageing and the Brain.” Postgraduate Medical Journal, vol. 82, no. 964, Feb. 2006, pp. 84–88. PubMed Central, https://doi.org/10.1136/pgmj.2005.036665.