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How to Achieve Your Healthiest Brain Yet

February 18, 2015

By Mary Staackmann, CPP
Director of Lifelong Learning, North Shore Senior Center

The brain is a remarkably dynamic organ that continues to develop and adapt over your lifetime. This responsive and ever-changing nature of the brain is referred to as plasticity, and it provides you with great opportunities to keep your brain fit and healthy.

The wonderful characteristic of brain plasticity does not end at a certain age. It spans the lifetime, so adults of any age have the opportunity to improve their brain fitness. Embrace the opportunities your brain's plasticity provides, and pursue a lifestyle that protects and enhances your brain fitness. A comprehensive lifestyle approach to brain fitness engages the whole person - mind, body and spirit.

  • Social Connections. This can be the fun part! You may retire from your career, but don't retire from life. Staying engaged in life, involved in your community and connected to family and friends is an important element of brain fitness and overall healthy aging.
  • Physical Fitness. Aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, can increase the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the brain and release growth factors that encourage nerve cell growth. Regular exercise also encourages the release of endorphins, which can boost your mood. Take regular brisk walks, go dancing, take an exercise class - just make sure you enjoy it so you will do it consistently.
  • Mental Stimulation. Regularly expose your brain to new and complex ideas, tasks or situations. The focus and concentration needed to learn something new triggers activity in the brain and encourages it to respond and grow. Complete crossword or Sudoku puzzles, read a challenging book, attend a lecture, study a new language or learn to play a musical instrument. The key is that you engage in new activities which require focused concentration.
  • Nutrition. Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet can not only reduce the risk of many chronic diseases, but also promote brain fitness and reduce your risk of age-related dementias. Choose foods with the essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants needed to feed a healthy brain, and limit excessive consumption of processed foods.
  • Spirituality. Relaxation techniques, meditation and prayer are three ways individuals may find peace in our hectic and stressful society. Your brain can still function in a chaotic world, but will work more efficiently over time if you regularly provide time for reflection and relaxation.

Brain fitness can improve your quality of life and sense of well-being. Over the long term, it may help reduce your risk of age-related dementias, such as Alzheimer's disease. And the good news is that you can make a tremendous impact on your brain's fitness by choosing to engage your mind in challenging, healthy activities every day.

North Shore Senior Center offers many programs and resources to help you keep your brain fit, including educational classes, fitness programs, social activities and much more. Visit our website for more information, or call 847.784.6030.


Nussbaum, Paul, Ph.D. Your Brain Health Lifestyle: A Proactive Program to Preserve Your Life Story. Word Association Publishers, Tarentum, PA. 2007.