Have you resolved to keep your mind sharp in the new year? Though a sound mind is important for everyone, it’s increasingly vital as we age, and the dawn of another year is a wonderful opportunity to focus on goals and behaviors to keep your brain in shape. Cognitive health has become an increasingly prevalent topic as longer life expectancies have led to a greater aging population. In recognition of this change, the United Nations and World Health Organization launched the “Decade of Healthy Ageing” in 2021 to focus on helping people age well.
But keeping your noggin nimble is only one component of healthy aging. It also includes aspects like physical and mental health, said Marcia Ory, Ph.D., MPH, a Regents and Distinguished Professor in Texas A&M University’s School of Public Health and an affiliate faculty member of the Center for Population Health and Aging. “The key is to think about healthy aging broadly and not just as one domain or one solution to the problem,” she said. “Healthy aging is not the absence of disease or disability; rather, it’s someone’s functional ability and capacity to do what one wants and values.”
So how can you practice healthy aging? Explore these expert tips from Ory on ways to benefit your mind and body in the new year and beyond.
1. Take care of your physical health
Everyone’s heard of the importance of eating right, staying active, not smoking and engaging in similar beneficial behaviors. While these actions all contribute to better physical health, they are equally important to improving cognitive health.
“The factors that relate to poor brain health are the same factors that are probably related to every disease,” Ory explained. “So, the one thing you can do for your cognitive health is to engage in all of those important healthy lifestyles.”
Pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease, can cause additional health complications, so managing such diseases with the recommended physical activity and diet is another essential step to promoting a healthy mind and body as the years go by.
2. Make meaningful connections
Activities like reading a book or developing a new hobby boost your brain through mental stimulation, as can connecting with others.