Reading, Playing Word Games Can Help Keep Your Brain Healthy As You Age

Reading, playing word games, or learning a new skill are just some of the ways you can keep your brain healthy as you age, according to Dr. Gary Small, Chair of Psychiatry at Hackensack University Medical Center and Behavioral Health Physician in Chief for Hackensack Meridian Health.

Dr. Small, who is a member of the Herbalife Nutrition Advisory Board, talked about “Healthy Aging: Brain Fitness for Healthy Adults” at the most recent Virtual Wellness Tour hosted by Herbalife Nutrition Philippines.

He likened the brain to the muscle, “which performs better when it gets regular exercise.”

“Mental stimulation has been shown to activate neural circuits and is associated with lower Alzheimer’s risk Educational achievements, bilingualism, or doing puzzles have all been shown to lower the risk of dementia. Memory training can also improve memory recall and help you maintain higher cognitive performance for five or more years,” Dr. Small said.

The Role Exercise and Balanced Nutrition in Brain Health

Apart from engaging in mentally stimulating activities, being active and healthy also helps with brain health. According to him, pairing exercise with a balanced diet supports both brain health and cardiovascular health.

“A healthy brain diet consists of eating foods rich in Omega-3 fats like fish and nuts; antioxidant-dense fruits and vegetables like blueberries and artichokes; and avoiding processed food,” Dr. Small said.

He, however, reminded that nutrition and exercise alone don’t prevent the onset of disease or reverse the effects of aging.

More Ways to Keep Your Brain Healthy

Talking to your doctor about managing your wellness and the medicines you take is also important to in keeping your brain healthy. Likewise, creating a healthy environment by limiting your exposure to smoke, smog, mold, and other toxins as well as avoiding information overload, TV addiction, and clutter is also good for your brain health.

Having a positive outlook, getting adequate sleep, and nurturing a strong community that you can rely on can also help in keeping your brain healthy as you age.

Dr. Small is Chair of Psychiatry at Hackensack University Medical Center and Behavioral Health Physician in Chief for Hackensack Meridian Health. He was a Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA where he also directed the university’s Longevity Center. He has studied and developed lifestyle and memory training programs for improving cognition and healthy aging, which have made available throughout the U.S. and abroad in senior centers, hospitals, and other community sites.

He has authored over 500 scientific works and received numerous awards and honors, including the American Psychiatric Association’s Weinberg Award for Excellence in Geriatric Psychiatry. Scientific American magazine named him one of the world’s top 50 innovators in science and technology.