person playing chess, knocking over king, check mate.

Keep Your Mind Sharp as You Age

As you age, your brain begins to shrink. This is part of the normal aging process, just like losing muscle mass and having reduced lung capacity. Brain atrophy usually begins at the age of 70, although the amount of synaptic connections, which are responsible for transporting nerve signals and are linked to cognitive functions, begins to decline in your 20s.

Exercising is one of the most important ways you can combat age-related brain decline. Studies show that regular exercise significantly reduces brain atrophy and keeps cognitive functions in shape.

Just as it is never too late to reap the benefits of exercising, it is also never too late to learn something new. Challenge yourself by taking a language or cooking class; these stimulate both your brain and your social connections, which also help to keep your mental sharpness. It also helps to keep the synapses alert by doing crosswords, Sudoku or other puzzles.

Other lifestyle considerations include eating a diet rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential nutrients for optimal brain health; controlling vascular risk factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol and stress; and getting adequate sleep.

In fact, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, sleep plays an important role in memory. Sleeping well equates to being able to learn well.

Around one-third of physical aging is genetic, which means the rest is up to our lifestyle. The choices we make with our diet, sleeping habits and exercise for our mind and body can have lasting effects on cognition and our overall brain health.