Want to help protect your brain? Small lifestyle changes can have a big impact. Here are four steps that women can take to help keep their minds strong.
1. Go for a walk
“Exercise gets your heart in shape so that it’s more efficient in pumping oxygen and nutrients to brain cells,” says Gary Small, a geriatric psychiatrist and the director of UCLA’s Longevity Center. You don't have to be a triathlete to reap the benefits of walking. “One study found that a 20-minute brisk walk three times a week lowers your risk of Alzheimer’s disease now,” he says.
2. Phone a friend
Women report being more fulfilled by social interactions — and rewarded by the oxytocin hormone that’s released during them — than men do. And some research found that older women who enjoy a large social network had a 26 percent lower risk of dementia. So picking up the phone to chat with a loved one or a friend will not only brighten your mood, but it can also benefit your brain.
3. Try something new
Learning new things can keep brain cells working at optimum levels and may even limit memory decline. Try varying everyday activities. If you like movies, periodically trade an action flick for something educational, like a documentary. If you like playing chess, challenge your brain to learn a new game such as bridge. If you like to read, put down your novel for a day and read a self-help book.
4. Schedule an annual exam
A 2020 report from AARP’s Global Council on Brain Health concluded that “keeping your heart and blood vessels healthy, likely reduces your risk for cognitive decline and dementia.” Other issues — such as hormonal health and thyroid function — can also affect the brain. But many of these conditions can be managed by appropriate medical care and scheduling annual exams.
Take a brain health assessment, play games, discover new recipes and more with AARP’s Staying Sharp.
This content is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide any expert, professional or specialty advice or recommendations. Readers are urged to consult with their medical providers for all questions.