The brain is arguably the most complex organ in the body. While some of its functions do tend to deteriorate as you age, a healthy lifestyle will help to keep the aging brain working at its best well into your later years.

Mental and physical exercise

Research has shown that your brain is a growing, active organ. Any mental stimulus will help open new connections (synapses) between your nerve cells. So go back to college, even if just to monitor a class or two rather than enroll for credit. Or put your computer to work and take some home study courses. You’ll find many of them are free. Purchase some word games or Sudoku magazines. Working crossword or Sudoku puzzles in your spare time will provide fun ways to keep your brain stimulated.  Learn a new language or a new musical instrument.

Physical exercise is paramount! Exercise helps to develop new nerve cells and increase the synapses. Any aerobic exercise that will increase your heart rate, even brisk walking, will help in sending oxygen-rich blood to your brain and to your heart.

Caution: When exercising or performing any physical activity, protect your head. Concussions or severe head injuries may result in increasing cognitive impairment as you age.

Watch your diet

Eat plenty of organic or grass fed protein and healthy fat, including fish, olive oil, avocados and nuts. Stay away from bread, pasta, and sugar. Avoid bad fats such as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Limit your alcohol intake and stop smoking.

Exercise and a healthy diet will help lower your blood pressure, regulate your blood sugar, and keep your cholesterol at a safe level. Research has shown that proper food, exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight can lower your chances of developing dementia.

If you feel that you’re lacking in proper nutrition, supplements can help. Some of the more important nutrients and hormones to replace for brain health are fish oil, Vitamin D, testosterone, DHEA, vitamin C, and B12.  Vitamin B12 deficiency, in particular, is quite common. A deficiency of this nutrient may result in poor memory, especially among vegans and seniors.

Vitamin C helps in the production of neurotransmitters which allow your brain to communicate with itself. Lack of this nutrient may affect your ability to focus, concentrate, and remember.

Lack of vitamin D can produce negative effects to the brain throughout your life. Children need it for normal brain development. And as an adult it may help to prevent cognitive decline, dementia, and Alzheimer’s.

Stress, meditation, and sleep

Neuroscientists at the University of California in Berkeley have discovered long-term changes in brain structure and function due to stress. These may explain post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and other mood disorders that occur later in life.

One sure-fire way to deal with stress is through meditation. Researchers have demonstrated how it can keep us sharper as we age by helping preserve the neuron-packed gray matter in the brain. Simply clearing your mind and employing deep breathing exercises will help relax your muscles and increase blood flow to the brain.

Sleep is extremely important as well. Scientists at the University of Bristol found that lack of sleep can actually shrink your brain and sharply increase stress levels. Lack of sleep will also impair your alertness and reduce your concentration, reasoning, and problem-solving ability.