Cognitive decline is a normal part of aging. Aging brains naturally have more of a build up of toxins. Although this is a natural part of growing older, certain lifestyle factors can influence the severity of impairment. Exercise, sleep, and diet all play a powerful role. However, it’s never too early to pick up one of these brain boosting habits. We may not be able to totally prevent cognitive decline, but we can work to improve the odds of remaining mentally sharp as long as possible.

This Fast Company article describes the concept of neuroplasticity. This refers to the way in which the brain changes and develops throughout our lifetime. A 2018 study showed that most of this occurs in the portion of the brain that produces and stores memories.

So how does all this science relate to protecting against cognitive decline? To sum it all up, the more we experience places, activities, emotions, and people, the more our brains can learn to adapt and develop. With this in mind, there are three main ways to encourage neuroplasticity in aging brains.

Getting your heart rate up a few times per week is so important for aging brains. Even taking a walk a few times per week is a great way to get your cardio exercise in. Yet if working out alone isn’t ideal for you, try out a group activity. There are many exercise classes geared towards seniors. Chair yoga and low impact aquatic exercise are great ways you can experience the benefits.

Sleep is crucial as well. Sleep quality naturally declines as we age. However, sleep deprivation is a common cause of memory impairment. Therefore, it’s recommended to aim for seven to nine hours of sleep per night. In order to improve the quality of sleep for seniors, try listening to calming music or guided meditations before bed.

Diet is another component to pay attention to as we age. Both time-restricted eating and intermittent fasting are thought to protect against cognitive decline. Reducing refined sugar is important too. But whichever method you choose to begin with, make sure to stick with it. Start with one, and work your way up to increasing your brain boosting habits. You never know the positive difference it could make for you as you age.