15 Things to Start Doing at 50 That’ll Save Your Brain at 80
It's never too early—or too late—to safeguard your mind against age-related decline. Here's what you can start doing today.
Learn to meditate
When researchers tested the brains of 50-year-old meditators, they discovered the meditator's minds were about 7.5 years younger on average compared to people who didn't practice meditation, according to a study published in the journal NeuroImage. Even better: Every year past the age of 50 that people meditated shaved an additional one month and 22 days off the age of their brain. The researchers theorize that the mental energy required to meditate induces neural nerve cell production and the formation of synapses. Here are 8 mini-meditations that can get you started right away.
Add more fish to the menu
The omega-3 fatty acid called DHA seems to help keep your brain functioning normally and efficiently. "The thing is, your body can't produce it on its own, so you must consume it," says Andrews. "And fish like salmon, herring, mackerel, tuna, and sardines are brimming with DHA." That helps explain why research has found that eating just one serving of fish a week can improve thinking skills—something that even holds true for people at high risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. Check out this guide to the best fish for your diet.
Ward off diabetes
People with prediabetes and diabetes tend to have worse long-term memory and more trouble problem-solving compared to those with normal blood sugar, according to a large-scale 2018 study. However, researchers note that when patients and their doctors take steps to delay and control diabetes, their brains tend to do better. Here are the steps you can take to avoid letting prediabetes slip into full-blown diabetes.
Eat these nuts
While all nuts are considered brain food, walnuts are especially beneficial because they're packed with the healthy omega-3 fat called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Some ALA is converted to the omega-3 DHA. "DHA is the most abundant fat in the brain, so consumption is very important for preserving brain function," says Andrews. As a matter of fact, regularly eating walnuts is linked to quicker thinking, mental flexibility, and better memory, according to a 2014 study in The Journal of Nutrition. Not a walnut fan? Researchers found that people who are 55 and older who eat more than ten grams (about two teaspoons) of nuts like almonds, hazelnuts, or peanuts daily have much sharper minds. Learn which nuts are the healthiest you can eat.
Stress itself isn't the issue—it's how you react to it: A recent study in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine found that people who react to stressful events with negativity experience worse mental focus and cognitive health than those who take stressful situations more in stride. If you fall on the negative side, start finding ways to alter your stress response now. Researchers found that people who over-react to stress as they get older (in their 70s and beyond) perform the worst on cognitive tests. To help get you to a more zen place, try one or all of these quick stress-busting strategies.
Learn a new skill
A 2014 study found that for people over 60, engaging in creative endeavors like painting classes or learning an instrument greatly improved their recall and processing speed. Researchers speculate that participating in these types of activities shore up the brain's defenses. But there's no reason to wait till your 60 to learn something new: According to the American Psychological Association, the amount of white matter—a mix of nerve fibers and their protective covering—in your brain keeps increasing until about age 50; that makes mid-life prime-time for brain-building. Now, add in these genius habits into your lifestyle that your 80-year-old brain will thank you for.
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