The brain is a critical component to longevity – here are four ways to enhance it.

The brain is a critical component to longevity – here are four ways to enhance it.

By Kristin Kirkpatrick

Kristin Kirkpatrick is a 20+ year registered dietitian, a best selling author, and a nationally recognized expert in integrative nutrition. Find her on Instagram @fuelwellwithkrissy or at



Brain health is essential, as the brain is involved in every aspect of our being. Over the last few decades, however, brain health has been deteriorating in individuals vulnerable to cognitive decline. Rates of dementia and Alzheimer's (a type of dementia) continue to increase. It's estimated that by 2060, 14 million Americans will be living with Alzheimer's, a massive increase from the 5.8 million currently living with the disease today.

There is no cure for Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. However, dozens of studies have found that certain lifestyle habits may help reduce the risk of developing the disease. These include regular physical activity, a healthy diet abundant in plants, low to no alcohol intake, and never smoking. Many other components may help reduce the risk of cognitive delay as well.  Here are four surprising ways to improve brain health.


1. Consider creatine.

Did you know that creatine is an essential brain compound associated with better cognitive health?  It’s also a critical component of energy and neuroprotection as well. A 2021 study in the Journal Nutrients found that creatine supplementation could help improve cognitive processing (the study did not see or identify an optimal dose). Further, a randomized control trial published in the British Medical Journal (BMC), considered the most extensive study on the cognitive effects of creatine intake, found slight improvements in cognition with creatine use. The authors noted that even minor improvements could profoundly impact better brain health when assessed over a larger population over many years. Other aspects of brain health may also be improved. Huntington’s disease (an aggressive form of neurodegeneration) is an inherited condition affecting the cells of the brain. A 2015 report found that creatine may positively impact the disease. The report on Huntington’s patients has shown dosing with Creatine HCl may prevent the onset or progression of symptoms.  Finally, a 2023 study found that creatine supplementation enhanced memory performance in healthy individuals, especially those aged 66-76.



Practical tips

  • If you are limiting animal proteins, creatine may be a (excuse the pun) no-brainer. Studies show that vegetarians who lack creatine in their diet may benefit from creatine supplementation for better memory.
  • Consider a creatine HCl (Creatine Hydrochloride) version for better bioavailability and fewer side effects. Individuals can experience bloating and gastric distress when taking creatine monohydrate (a common form found in supplements). Therefore, taking creatine HCl (Creatine Hydrochloride) may result in fewer potential gastrointestinal side effects. Further, an HCl version may enhance bioavailability, so you’ll need less to gain the benefits.
  • Focus on creatine-rich foods in the diet, such as lean meat, poultry, and wild, fatty fish.

(Discuss the optimal dose, potential benefits, and risks with your healthcare provider before taking creatine).


2. Make sleep as important as diet and exercise.

Sleep heals the damage that your day may bring. When we sleep, the body resets; it takes a much-needed rest to function the next day. When sleep suffers, the body and brain suffer as well. A 2024 study found that individuals with irregular sleep patterns have a higher risk of dementia. Another study published in the journal Aging found that sleeping less than 5 hours was associated with a greater risk of dementia. Finally, a 2023 study in the Journal of BMC Medicine found that deep sleep could help increase resilience against beta-amyloid buildup – a key component in the development of Alzheimer’s.



Practical tips

  • Keep your sleep/wake cycle consistent, even on weekends, and aim for at least 7 hours every night.
  • Make your bedroom an oasis of sleep by limiting light, regulating temperature, and limiting noise.
  • Put the phone down for about an hour before dozing off. This will help the brain and body wind down and prepare for better-quality sleep.


3. Connect with others.

Multiple studies show that social connections reduce the risk of dementia. A 2023 study found that social isolation was associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease. These findings were consistent with another study published in the journal Neurology, which found that social isolation was associated with changes to the brain that involved areas important for memory and cognitive function. Finally, a 2023 study found that having a more extensive social network could help reduce the risk of cognitive decline later in life. The cited data from the survey also suggested that interacting with others more frequently may be more beneficial than having an extensive social network you engage with only occasionally. The authors further stated that the mechanisms behind better cognitive health may be related to reduction of stress and inflammation, reducing vascular damage, building cognitive reserve, and reducing depression.


Practical tips

  • Focus on quality over quantity by focusing on thoughtful, frequent interactions within your social circle.
  • Engage in activities that boost brain health, which can be done with others. Examples may include walking groups, lunching at healthy establishments, and playing games that challenge the brain, such as chess.
  • Make efforts to be around others and limit the time spent alone at home.


4. Mix up your daily routine.

Neuroplasticity is "a process that involves adaptive structural and functional changes to the brain." Research indicates that when we challenge the brain to learn new things (such as learning a new language, playing an instrument, or even engaging in a daily crossword puzzle), we enhance the ability to strengthen and change. Just doing something new can strengthen the mind. After all, the brain gets used to a routine like the rest of the body. Studies find these brain challenges are associated with enhancing memory and thinking skills by challenging new areas of function.



Practical tips

  • Aim to do something new every few months. For example, learn to play a new type of board game, new phrases from a different language, or a new way of doing an old task (for example, reading a book on a topic outside your norm)
  • Start the day with a crossword puzzle.
  • Choose new places to travel.
  • Engage in new hobbies such as golf, tennis, quilting, painting, or gardening.

Your brain wants interaction, challenges, exercise, rest, and fuel. Giving your brain the best possible quality will enhance your health, longevity, and, most likely, your ability to delay cognitive decline as you age. Take care of your brain, and your brain will take care of you.


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