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Scientists used to think that your brain stopped growing new cells once you reached adulthood. Happily, current research shows that this conventional wisdom simply isn’t true! As you get older, you can continue to grow new brain cells and even reverse some of the natural brain cell loss that occurs with age. To encourage your brain to grow new cells, try adopting healthy habits like exercising regularly and doing stress-relieving activities. You can also protect your old brain cells by staying away from tobacco, limiting alcohol use, and managing health conditions such as high blood pressure and mood disorders.
- 1 Get regular aerobic exercise. Working out doesn’t just build your muscles—it also beefs up your brain! Incorporate moderate aerobic activity, such as swimming, power walking, or jogging, into your regular routine.
- For example, you might aim for 30 minutes of jogging a day, 5 days a week.
- Research shows that regular aerobic exercise over a long period of time is more effective at stimulating brain cell growth than other forms of exercise (such as interval training or resistance training).
- If you’re not sure what kind of aerobic activity is safe or appropriate for you, talk to your doctor or a physical therapist.
- 2 Do stress-relieving activities. Activities that reduce stress and give you a sense of wellbeing can encourage the growth of new brain cells. Try to set aside at least a few minutes each day to do things that bring you pleasure and help you relax, such as:
- Engaging in your favorite hobby or creative activity
- Listening to relaxing music
- Getting intimate with a romantic partner
Did you know? A recent study found that having an active sex life can help stimulate the growth of new brain cells! Researchers believe this benefit comes from the stress-relieving properties of sex.
- 3 Try challenging mental exercises. When you flex mental muscles that you don’t usually use, your brain is encouraged to grow new cells. Challenge yourself by doing “neurobics,” or brain exercises that focus on exposing your mind to new stimuli and ideas. A few activities you could try include:
- Playing 3D video games
- Learning a new skill or reading about a subject you’ve never studied before
- Using your non-dominant hand to do everyday activities like brushing your teeth, eating, or doodling
- 4 Eat foods rich in antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acids. Antioxidant-rich foods can prevent damage to your current brain cells and promote the growth of new, healthy cells. Omega 3 fatty acids, which can be found in fish and flaxseed, may also help improve your brain health. Incorporate plenty of brain-boosting foods into your diet, such as:
- Vegetable oils
- Nuts and seeds
- Leafy greens
- Curcumin (a spice found in yellow curries)
- Green tea
- Fatty fish, such as tuna, salmon, and mackerel
- 5 Talk to your doctor or a dietitian about cutting calories. Eating a diet that is high in calories—especially calories from fat—may inhibit your brain’s ability to create new cells. Additionally, restricting the amount of calories you eat can encourage the growth of new brain cells. Ask your doctor if you might benefit from reducing the amount of calories you eat every day.
- Studies show that following a restricted diet, in which you eat only 70% of the calories you’d normally consume, can be beneficial to your brain and your overall health. However, don’t try a restricted diet without talking to your doctor about whether it’s safe for you.
- 6 Ask your doctor about supplements that stimulate brain growth. Research on substances that can help your brain grow new cells is still in its early stages. However, there’s evidence that certain vitamins and dietary supplements may help. Ask your doctor for recommendations.
- For example, if you have a deficiency of vitamin A or zinc, taking supplements might make it easier for your brain to produce new cells.
- Some studies show that a natural compound called apigenin may stimulate brain cell growth. Ask your doctor about taking apigenin supplements. You can also get it from dietary sources, such as parsley, celery, or chamomile tea.
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