8 Ways to Keep Your Brain Young As You Age

By Courtney Sperlazza, MPH
Reviewed by Theresa Greenwell for Scientific Accuracy on 01/31/2024

8 Ways to Keep Your Brain Young As You Age

  • Your brain burns through 20% of your body’s total energy. All that energy requires a lot of mitochondria, the power generators of your cells.
  • With all that energy production and use, your brain releases damaging free radicals. Over time, those free radicals can contribute to oxidative stress, leading to cell and tissue damage.
  • Read on to find out ways to max out your brain’s energy production—while minimizing damage to your delicate brain cells—to keep your thinker young and sharp.

Your brain burns through an immense amount of energy. That’s why you feel the signs when your power supply is low: memory problems, brain fog and searching for words, to name a few. If you’re wondering how to improve brain health, start with supporting your brain’s need for fuel.

The brain does a lot for you, and it’s your job to give it the energy and protection it needs to stay young and efficient. Read on to find out ways to maximize your brain’s energy production (while minimizing damage to your delicate brain cells) to keep your thinker young and sharp.

How to improve brain health as you age

Brain health and mental health go hand-in-hand. These tips will help you feel great, support your health and reduce risk factors for diseases related to brain aging. Keep reading to find out how to improve brain health from the inside-out.

1. Eat more polyphenol-rich foods

Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower

Right now, as you breathe, you’re flooding your system with oxygen. Your mitochondria latch onto that oxygen and use it to make fuel. They leave behind free radicals, the part of the oxygen they can’t use.

A few free radicals are good to get rid of weak cells, but too many cause inflammation and damage to healthy cells. Brain cells are especially vulnerable to free radicals just because of the sheer volume of energy the brain goes through: 20% of your body’s total energy haul.[1]

The solution is on your plate. All vegetables contain polyphenols that neutralize free radicals and prevent them from wreaking havoc. The brighter the color, the better. Polyphenols also help you make more BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), a protein that builds new brain cells.[2]

Bulletproof tip: Want to make sure you’re getting polyphenols in your diet? Reach for Bulletproof Polyphenomenal for a daily antioxidant boost.

2. Consume dietary fat

Butter knife slicing block of butter

Have you ever tried a low-fat diet and felt sleepy and distracted? That’s because your brain needs dietary fat. Your brain is about 60% fat (25% of which is cholesterol). In fact, researchers have linked low-cholesterol diets to cognitive decline.[3]

Brain cells send signals to each other along long branches that are covered in a fatty coating called myelin, which keeps the electrical signal going where it’s supposed to go. Myelin breakdown slows electrical communication in your brain.[4]

Here’s the thing: Not all fats are the same. Some have been shown to give more brain-boosting power than others—and MCT (medium chain triglycerides) is one of the best fats to benefit cognition.

MCTs are found in small amounts in coconut oil. But before you start putting coconut oil in everything, know that it contains mostly C12 (lauric acid), which doesn’t create the same ketogenic effect as C8 (caprylic acid) If you want the biggest bang for your buck, go with pure C8 MCT oil.

Here are some easy ways to add more dietary fat to your day to support brain function:

3. Get your body moving

Woman working out at home

You know that physical activity is good for everything from heart health to mood, whether you prefer aerobic exercise (like running) or anaerobic exercise (like lifting weights). It may also reduce your risk of cognitive decline.

Getting in some movement may help lower inflammation and stress hormones while improving blood flow to the brain. It can also help form new neural connections in the hippocampus, which is an important segment of your brain that supports your memory.[5]

Pairing up physical exercise with a healthy diet may improve cognitive function more than only doing one or the other. A study found that older individuals with mild cognitive impairment had improved thinking and memory, especially when following the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet and participating in aerobic activity.[6]

4. Experiment with oxaloacetate

Man working at desk

Environmental toxins and stressors cause your brain to pump out a neurotransmitter called glutamate. Your brain needs glutamate to function, but too much of it is toxic and starts killing off surrounding brain cells.

However, researchers found that a compound called oxaloacetate protected rodents’ brains from glutamate-induced damage.[7] Animal studies also demonstrated that oxaloacetate increases nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, or NAD, a coenzyme that helps cells produce more energy.

Bulletproof tip: A key ingredient of Bulletproof KetoPrime is oxaloacetate, so consider adding this supplement into your wellness regimen.

5. Supplement with PQQ (pyrroloquinoline quinone)

Your body uses pyrroloquinoline quinone, or PQQ, as a powerful antioxidant. PQQ protects your cells (and specifically your mitochondria) from damaging free radicals. It’s about 100 times as powerful as vitamin C, and it increases Nrf2, a pathway that increases the antioxidants that your body produces.[8][9][10]

That’s great news because antioxidants are critical in protecting every cell in your body—especially the brain. Remember, your brain gobbles up 20% of your total energy expenditure, so it releases a lot of damaging free radicals in close proximity to areas that you especially don’t want to zap: bundles of delicate neurons.

PQQ is naturally occurring in small quantities in green tea, natto, parsley and other foods, but you’ll get the most out of supplementing. Co-enzyme Q10, a molecule that helps to generate energy, and PQQ are combined in Bulletproof CoQ10 Energy.

6. Try out coffee fruit extract

Coffee beans and coffee berries

Research shows that 100 mg of coffee fruit extract (the red fruit that holds coffee beans) raises brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is a protein your body uses to make new brain cells, by about 140%.[11][12] Coffee fruit extract is a key ingredient in the supplement Bulletproof Energy + Focus, which gives your brain a boost.

7. Participate in brain training exercises

Hand holding Rubik's cube

Just like you can work out your muscles, you can flex your brain cells to make them stronger and faster. Puzzle books, crossword puzzles, brain teaser toys and logic games all give your brain a trip to the gym. Here are a few ideas:

  • Figure out how to solve a Rubik’s cube (Don’t spin and spin and give up—there’s a method to it! Look it up online and practice so your brain learns something)
  • Get together with friends and have a night at an escape game-solving riddles and puzzles
  • Work through reaction-time games on your phone during your down-time

The key is to use your noodle consistently and change it up so you’re always improving mental function.

Furthermore, one method that has some science behind it is dual N-back training: a form of progressive brain training. That means it gets more challenging as you go in order to improve memory, problem-solving, imagination and REM sleep.[13] All you do is react to visual cues on a screen and press the right key when you get a location or audio match.

8. Get better sleep

Bulletproof sleep supplements on nightstand

You might think sleeping is a time to rest your brain, but that couldn’t be further from the truth of what’s actually happening. Sleep is your brain’s most active time. While you’re snoozing, your brain is working hard to repair, clean out waste products and make and strengthen brain cell connections from what you learned and did throughout the day.

That’s why it’s crucial to not just sleep more, but sleep better. It’s not enough to just be in your bed. The magic happens during high-quality, restful sleep. Need help getting there? Try out Bulletproof Sleep Mode, which is a natural supplement that features melatonin and other beneficial ingredients to help you secure the quality sleep you need.†

If you feel fine right now, why should you care about brain health? Keeping your cognitive health in check keeps you sharp as you age. It’s all too common to think that brain fog, forgetfulness and declining cognitive abilities are just a part of old age. That’s not necessarily true. You’ll notice one thing in common with these tips to improve brain health: They all support healthy cells to keep your brain firing on all cylinders.

Looking for more ways to help you stay sharp, alert and focused? Learn more about nootropic supplements to give your brain an extra boost.

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This article has been updated with new content.