20 Tips to Keep Your Brain Sharp

Want to keep your mind sharp for years to come? We know we do! That’s why we’ve talked with our doctors and compiled a list of top 20 doctor tips that will help keep your brain sharp. Take a second to read through the list and put them into practice. It’s never too late to get started!

  1. Stay active, no matter your age! Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Allen Lu says, “Whether you are 2 or 102, being out of shape is only temporary unless you allow it to be permanent.”
  2. Consume less alcohol. Psychiatrist Dr. Heidi Fowler notes that “Alcohol can slow reaction time, impair memory, and impact judgement and impulse control.”
  3. Stay hydrated. According to Dr. Donald Alves, a specialist in emergency medicine, drinking a lot of water makes you feel physically and mentally sharper, as “proper hydration improves functioning of all physiologic systems and facilitates toxin removal.”
  4. Practice preventive care. This involves working with your physician to monitor and avoid developing illnesses. “This overlaps with self-care,” says psychiatrist Dr. Pamela Pappas, “[and both] are needed for a healthy life!”
  5. Take care of your mental health. If you think you’re depressed, it’s important to reach out. Psychiatrist Dr. Sheldon Kardener says, “What is very important to understand is the fact that untreated recurrent depressions tend to become more intense, difficult to treat, and symptom-free periods become shorter.” Mental health issues can cloud your judgment, so make sure to take care of your brain.
  6. Get enough sleep. There’s no substitute for getting a good night’s rest.Dr. Yash Khanna, whose specialty is family medicine, suggests a minimum of 7–8 hours of sleep each night.
  7. Eat well. A balanced healthy diet with regular exercise and a reasonable amount of sleep is the best way to improve body and brain fitness.
  8. Don’t rely on herbal supplements. As clinical psychologist Dr. Ernest Bordini puts it, supplements and herbs “don’t need to pass the rigors of FDA testing,” so their health claims can be controversial and insufficiently supported. Instead of relying on supplements, focus on a healthy diet.
  9. Increase your consumption of fruits, veggies, and wild fish. Dr. Steven Charlap, who specializes in holistic medicine, suggests plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Also, “avoid processed foods high in saturated fats with added sugars, especially high fructose corn syrup.”
  10. Manage your anxiety. Anxiety has many different symptoms, including absent-mindedness and mental strain, so make sure to speak to a doctor.
  11. Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D. Endocrinologist Dr. Frederick Singer agrees that a deficiency in vitamin D has been associated with depression, so get some sun or take some vitamins!
  12. Exercise regularly, especially cardio. Clinical psychologist Dr. Lawrence Smith notes that exercise is helpful for many reasons, but primarily because it promotes cardiovascular fitness.
  13. Do brain games, like quizzes and online puzzles. It’s a simple, fun way to polish your mental skills, and neurologist Dr. Dariush Saghafi loves them! If your decreased alertness seems a little more serious, consult a neurologist.
  14. Use your imagination. It isn’t just for kids! Psychiatrist Dr. Jeffrey Satinover says, “The mind is kept sharp not so much by sensory experiences per se, as by imagination that reproduces sensory experiences,” so let your mind run wild.
  15. Remember to devote time to both your physical AND emotional health. Our doctors — including pediatrician Dr. Tanya Russo — agree: “Balanced diet, adequate and regular sleep, daily exercise, and meditation are the fundamentals for emotional and physical health.”
  16. Do activities that keep you mentally engaged. To increase your alertness and concentration without taking drugs like Ritalin, pediatric neurologist Dr. William Goldie recommends activities like music, painting, photography, knitting, and cooking to exercise your mind.
  17. Stressed? Talk to your doctor. When it comes to a clear, focused mind, stress definitely gets in the way. If you’re finding it hard to destress, clinical psychologist Dr. Arthur Ciaramicoli says this: “You should consult with your doctor to rule out medical issues, then if you are cleared, consult with a mental health professional who can help you understand what is affecting you and also help develop a plan for your return to better health.”
  18. Besides fast-paced cardio, consider slow-moving physical activity. Tai chi, yoga, and qi gong can help clear your mind and relax you. Dr. Gutti Rao also notes that it’s supposed to improve cardiovascular and respiratory health.
  19. Meditate! Meditation involves focusing your mind on a particular thing in order to clear the mind of negative thoughts. Psychiatrist Dr. Alfredo Soto says, “There is a lot of research to show that meditation helps promote good mental health. If done correctly it can calm the mind down and help with focus.”
  20. Volunteer your time. Volunteering can be a low-impact, highly feel-good way to stay mentally active — and Dr. Keegan Duchicela, a specialist in family medicine, says it’s great at any age!
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