Brain Health & Fitness

The health of your brain affects everything you do — thinking, remembering, working and playing. The good news is that research shows there are steps you can take to improve your brain function. 

Keeping your mind sharp is as important as keeping your body fit. There are plenty of natural, drug-free ways to do it, and many ways to fit brain-healthy activities into your life. Incorporating these activities may also reduce your risk of Alzheimer's disease or other dementia.

It’s never too early or too late to start taking better care of your brain. Why not start taking some healthy steps today?

The Four Pillars of Brain Health

Because body and mind are so closely interrelated, what’s good for your body is also good for your brain. Adopt these healthy lifestyle habits and improve your health overall.

Balanced Nutrition

Eat a variety of healthy, nutrient-dense foods including plenty of fruits and vegetables — especially leafy green varieties — whole grains and lean sources of protein, including legumes and cold-water fish such as salmon. Choose monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, rather than saturated fats. In addition, opt for fresh foods instead of processed foods, which can be high in fat, sugar and salt.

For more information about healthy eating for older adults, visit the Diet & Nutrition for Older Adults section on National Council on Aging (NCOA) website.

Stress Management

Did you know that chronic stress can actually slow the formation of certain nerve cells in the brain? Meditation, yoga and other calming activities can help you manage stress. If your stress level is high, talk to your doctor about biofeedback or other proven methods for dealing with stress. El Camino Health offers classes to help you manage stress effectively.

Physical Activity

Staying active improves brain function, including learning, by increasing blood supply and growth hormone levels in the body. Studies have shown that cardiovascular exercise, such as dancing or brisk walking, offers the greatest effect. Talk to your doctor about starting an exercise program.

El Camino Health offers a special balance and exercise class just for seniors. For more information about exercise for older adults, visit National Council on Aging (NCOA).

Mental Stimulation

Using your brain in different ways can strengthen connections between nerve cells, which can help keep your brain working in top form. Learn new things, take on new challenges and find activities you enjoy — it will introduce you to new interests, as well as keep your mind sharp. Reading, visiting friends and family, watching movies, dining out, playing games and staying active in your community all exercise your brain.

Some "brain-training" exercises are available online — such as these brain games from AARP — and some can be used on electronic devices and handheld game systems. These brain exercises offer training in specific areas, such as speed, memory, attention, cognitive flexibility and problem solving. Research is ongoing, but some experts believe these games and programs can help support a healthy brain.