4 scientifically proven ways to boost brain power as you get older

Listening to music and staying active are ways to boost your brain power as you get older.
Listening to music and staying active are ways to boost your brain power as you get older.

Realising that you won’t be 21 forever is a hard-to-swallow harsh truth. But realising that your body and mind won’t remain as sharp as your greatest years, is even worse.

Read more: Use these 4 mindfulness apps if you’re stressed all the time

That’s why adopting habits that can help you remain strong not physically, but mentally, is very important. Check out these four scientifically proven tips for boosting brain power so you can truly tell people you’re wiser because you’re older:

1. Stay active

study published in Neurology: Clinical Practice looked at 100 existing studies of the data of more than 11 000 older people. The researchers found that over a period of six months, people who exercised 52 hours had the biggest improvements in both thinking and speed tests. 

Read more: The complete guide to staying fit in your 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s

In fact, the exercise showed an effect on people who hadn’t experience cognitive decline as well as those with dementia or mild cognitive impairment. Most people exercised for around one hour, three times a week. Three hours of exercise a week seems like a small amount for some serious brain power.

2. Have more sex. No, seriously!

According to a study by the universities of Coventry and Oxford, more frequent sexual activity has been linked to improved brain function in older adults. Those who engaged in sexual activity weekly, scored the highest when it came to verbal fluency tests. But in tests of attention, memory and language participants who were not sexually active performed just as well as those who had sex weekly or monthly. 

Read more: This study on older adults’ sex lives proves your sex life isn’t doomed

“People don’t like to think that older people have sex – but we need to challenge this conception at a societal level and look at what impact sexual activity can have on those aged 50 and over, beyond the known effects on sexual health and general wellbeing,” said lead researcher Dr Hayley Wright.

And we couldn’t agree more! If having sex can have a positive effect on boosting your brain power, then we say go for it.

3. Stick to a Mediterranean diet

study of almost 6 000 older adults found that the participants who consistently followed a Mediterranean diet (a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and fish) were more like to have stronger cognitive function when they got older. They were 40% less likely to be cognitively impaired than the people who followed the diet less strictly.

Read more: We decode 3 popular diets and discuss the pros, cons and what you should take from each

“Although the idea that a healthy diet can help protect against cognitive decline as we age is not new, the size and length of these four studies demonstrate how powerful good dietary practices may be in maintaining brain health and function,” said Dr Keith Fargo, Alzheimer’s Association Director of Scientific Programs and Outreach.

4. Listen to music

Researchers from John Hopkins have found that music really is medicine for your mind. “If you want to keep your brain engaged throughout the ageing process, listening to or playing music is a great tool. It provides a total brain workout,” says one Johns Hopkins otolaryngologist.

Read more: The story of how SA musician Francois van Coke went from fat to fit

This is because your brain has to do a lot of computing to make sense of a single song. But if you continue to listen to the same songs and genres as you did when you were a teen, as most of us do, you stop challenging your brain. Listening to your children’s or grandchildren’s music is a great way to boost brain power, according to experts, because it challenges your brain to make sense of an unfamiliar sound.

This article was originally published on www.mh.co.za

Image credit: iStock 

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