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What Can Help You Stay Sharp as You Age?

Maintaining physical activity and consuming blueberries, turmeric and rosemary may help you stay sharp as you age. Which will you try?
What Can Help You Stay Sharp as You Age?
Senior man and mature woman wearing apron and picking vegetables at farm garden. Senior farmers looking at plants. Worried retired couple examine plants at backyard garden during the harvest.

Do you know how to stay healthy? Chances are you are aware that exercise and diet are keystones of good health throughout your life. You and your health care provider may also be paying attention to your cholesterol level, blood pressure and sugar metabolism. How about keeping your brain healthy? There are a few things that might help you stay sharp as you age.

Q. My husband and I like to stay active despite the various aches and pains that come from celebrating a bunch of birthdays. What we worry about most, though, is our brain health. We would like to stay sharp for at least a few more decades. Are there any natural remedies that could help?

How Can You Stay Sharp as You Age?

A. Staying physically active is one of the best strategies to help you stay sharp as you age. Older adults who got at least 150 minutes of exercise a week fared better on tests of cognitive function than those who moved less (Journal of Hypertension, June 2017). The type of activity may make a difference, according to a study of Chinese women (Healthcare, March 24, 2020). Functional MRI showed differences between those who walked regularly and those who practiced tai chi chuan, although presumably all these women over 60 were doing better cognitively and physically than sedentary elders.

What About Natural Remedies?

There are many natural compounds that show some promise for keeping your brain working well. We don’t have any research demonstrating that foods, herbs or spices can ward off dementia, though.

Rosemary:

You might want to consider drinking a glass of rosemary water daily. A study in 80 healthy adults showed that they performed better on cognitive tasks after consuming 250 ml (about a cup) of rosemary water than after drinking mineral water (Journal of Psychopharmacology, Dec. 2018).

Turmeric:

Turmeric, the yellow spice in yellow mustard and curry powder, is another promising compound for both reducing inflammation and improving cognitive function. Preliminary research suggests that curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, may help prevent cognitive decline with aging (Brain Research, Dec. 15, 2019).

Anthocyanins:

You might want to consider including certain foods in your diet to help you stay sharp as you age. Studies suggest that blueberries could be beneficial (Nutrients, July 2, 2019). Blueberries are rich in anthocyanin compounds. A review suggests that these plant-based compounds may protect the brain during aging (Current Pharmaceutical Design, Jan. 26, 2020). 

To learn more about rosemary, turmeric and other herbs and spices that can be beneficial for healthy aging, you may wish to read our book, Spice Up Your Health. If you have a favorite approach that you hope will help you stay sharp as you age, tell us about it in the comment section.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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Citations
  • Frith E & Loprinzi PD, "Physical activity and cognitive function among older adults with hypertension." Journal of Hypertension, June 2017. DOI: 10.1097/HJH.0000000000001311
  • Yue C et al, "Differential effects of Tai Chi Chuan (motor-cognitive training) and walking on brain networks: A resting-state fMRI study in Chinese women aged 60." Healthcare, March 24, 2020. DOI: 10.3390/healthcare8010067
  • Moss M et al, "Acute ingestion of rosemary water: Evidence of cognitive and cerebrovascular effects in healthy adults." Journal of Psychopharmacology, Dec. 2018. DOI: 10.1177/0269881118798339
  • Voulgaropoulou SD et al, "The effect of curcumin on cognition in Alzheimer's disease and healthy aging: A systematic review of pre-clinical and clinical studies." Brain Research, Dec. 15, 2019. DOI: 10.1016/j.brainres.2019.146476
  • Miller K et al, "Bioactive compounds of strawberry and blueberry and their potential health effects based on human intervention studies: A brief overview." Nutrients, July 2, 2019. DOI: 10.3390/nu11071510
  • Cásedas G et al, "Anthocyanins: plant pigments, food ingredients or therapeutic agents for the CNS? A mini-review focused on clinical trials." Current Pharmaceutical Design, Jan. 26, 2020. DOI: 10.2174/1381612826666200127093701
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