Alzheimer’s-related brain changes start as early as your 30s or 40s.

If you were taught that you’re born with all the brain cells you’ll ever get and it’s all downhill from there, it’s time for a rethink. Mounting research suggests you can improve your brain no matter what your age, making it stronger now and protecting it for the long term.

In fact, while surveys have found that 60 percent of Americans consider Alzheimer’s disease a natural part of getting older, scientists say the opposite. “We’re finally able to use the terms ‘Alzheimer’s disease’ and ‘prevention’ in the same sentence,” says Richard Isaacson, MD, director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medicine. And the same may be true for other forms of cognitive decline.

The best time to start your brain-improvement plan: now. Alzheimer’s-related brain changes that can lead to cognitive impairment-and prevent the lightning-fast thinking you’re used to-start as early as your 30s or 40s. Yet whether you’re younger or older than that, making good choices in what you do, eat, and think can make a big difference in how your gray matter works later on. “There’s not an age that’s too early or too late to think about better brain health,” says Dr. Isaacson.

Your brain’s four favorite life preservers include some that probably look familiar: The activity, foods, and sleep your heart loves also keep your brain in shape.

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Published on Prevention August 3, 2018