What Have You Done for Your Brain Lately?Current research suggests a number of “protective factors” that are associated with better mental skills as we age. These factors include higher educational attainment, higher socioeconomic status, social support, better mental abilities to start with (may be the cause of the education socioeconomic status effect), better lung capacity (an index of fitness and lifestyle), taking a multivitamin, and moderate alcohol use. Note that many of these factors are under your control. There is so much you can do.

The persons that do best as they age work or volunteer, live with someone, rate their health as good to excellent, exercise moderately to vigorously, and do not smoke. If your short-term memory holds, engagement in the world improves memory, reasoning, and speed of thinking. There are no guarantees. However, if you manage the factors you can control, the quality of your time will improve whether you remember what you did or not.

If you make New Year’s resolutions this year, consider doing something for your brain.

— Reduce vascular risk by treating hypertension and high cholesterol.
— If you smoke, quit smoking.
— Exercise most days of the week at least to a moderate intensity.
— Avoid head injuries (e.g., use your seat belt, wear a helmet to cycle)
— Eat a heart healthy diet (many fruit, vegetables, and some fish).
— Manage emotional issues such as stress, anxiety and depression.
— Be social.
— Stay curious and engaged. Read, learn, travel, enjoy. Stay with your passions.