1. Learn something
Stimulating the brain helps it develop a resilience that allows us to fight off diseases like Alzheimer's, says Paul D. Nussbaum, Ph.D, an adjunct professor of neurological surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine who has been working with AARP on its brain health program. "Age doesn't matter," he says. "We have the ability to shape our brains throughout our lives."
Getting fewer than six hours of sleep a night can raise the risk of stroke, according to research presented at a 2012 Associated Professional Sleep Societies meeting.
3. Eat right
More than half your plate should be filled with green, leafy vegetables. Get plenty of fish, nuts and olive oil; steer clear of refined carbs. A 2009 Columbia University study found that this kind of diet may help ward off Alzheimer's.
4. Challenge yourself
"The number one memory complaint people have is that they're bad with names," says neurologist Majid Fotuhi, M.D., Ph.D. "People need to stop whining and realize they can do it!" His prescription: Memorize three names a day — such as those of an announcer on TV, a person in your company and a key player on your favorite sports team.
5. Walk with a friend
Psychiatrist Gary Small, M.D., calls this a triple threat against Alzheimer's disease: It gives you a cardiovascular workout, stress-relieving social interaction and mentally stimulating conversation.
Reduced anxiety improves blood flow to the brain. A quick calm-me-down: Inhale for a count of seven, hold for a count of seven, exhale for a count of seven. Repeat seven times.