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Neurological Disorders

Four Simple Ways to Support Brain Health

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alzheimers-parkinsons-exercise-brain disease

It’s never too early to start prioritizing your brain health. Follow these everyday tips to keep your brain healthy and lower your risk of developing brain disease.

As we age, we start to encounter the natural effects of aging on the brain, such as cognitive decline and memory loss. For some, these issues can progress more rapidly due to common brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

The good news is that there are ways you can lower your risk of developing brain disease. It starts with a commitment to prioritizing your brain health. Education and awareness of brain disease can lead to better prevention and access to treatment. Below, we’ve outlined four simple ways you can improve your brain health and support others who are dealing with brain disease.

Get plenty of sleep

Adults should get 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Sleep is crucial to brain health both in quantity and quality. It’s a two-way relationship: Our brains and bodies regulate our sleep patterns, and sleep affects our brain health and body functions.

It’s also important to consider when you sleep. Daily shifts of light and darkness affect our sleep and wake cycles, circadian rhythms, and energy levels. A regular sleep-wake schedule and appropriate timing of light exposure, eating, and activity will help your body stay in rhythm and promote quality sleep.

Research has linked sleep disturbances, such as fragmented sleep, to an increased risk for diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Studies show that high-quality sleep may help prevent the toxic buildup of proteins in the brain that have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Based on this research, addressing sleep disturbances and managing circadian rhythms may help alleviate symptoms of Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases.

Protect yourself from head injuries

Taking everyday precautions against head injuries — like wearing a seatbelt or helmet — will help protect your long-term brain health. When playing sports, be sure to follow all safety rules and have a concussion plan in place in advance. For children, use age- and size-appropriate car seats and ensure they are properly installed. You can also help prevent falls by using safety features like highchair straps and stair gates.

Head injuries can contribute to a range of brain diseases and disorders, even when an injury doesn’t seem severe at the time. For example, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a neurodegenerative disorder that has been linked to repetitive head impacts, even ones that aren’t diagnosed as a concussion. Research has also found that Alzheimer’s disease could be caused by damage to the protective barrier in the brain.

Exercise regularly

Maintaining a regular exercise routine is one of the most effective ways to promote brain health. The best exercises for brain health are ones that increase your heart rate, such as running and kickboxing. You should build up to doing 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise multiple days per week, aiming for a total of at least 150 minutes per week.

While it has many benefits overall, aerobic exercise may activate beneficial genes in the brain and help with memory. Additionally, research shows that people who are physically active are less likely to have a decline in their mental function and have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Doctors believe these brain health benefits are tied to the increased blood flow to the brain during exercise. This increased blood flow may also help counter some of the natural breakdowns in brain connections and functioning that happen as we age.

Keep your mind active

Think of the brain as a muscle: to keep it in shape, you need to stay mentally active. Hobbies and personal interests, social engagement and learning new things can all have a positive effect on brain health. Keep your brain active by stimulating it in new ways, such as doing puzzles, reading, and playing cards.

Our mental health and brain health are also connected. Regular social interaction can help improve mental health and promote healthier ways of dealing with stress, so make time to connect with friends and family whenever possible, especially if you live alone.

Studies have also found that art and music therapies have multiple benefits for people living with diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s — in part because they help engage different areas of the brain. Activities like riding a bicycle, dancing, and boxing have been found to activate uplifting emotions and a sense of reward, generating positive effects and aiding in symptom management for people with Parkinson’s.

Some of the above everyday actions can play an important role in keeping our brains healthy and active. Beyond taking care of your own brain health, you can also make a difference by offering support to caregivers and family members of people living with brain disease.

Learn more about how research is uncovering new ways to support lifelong brain health at

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