It’s inevitable that as you get older, your brain’s function will begin to change. Some age related cognitive decline is normal, however in some older adults this cognitive decline may lead to a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or Parkinson’s disease. Research has shown that you can maintain healthy brain function as you age and perhaps delay the onset of cognitive decline by incorporating specific nutrients, physical activity and brain stimulation into your daily routine. The time to start is now.

Eat Fish

60 per cent of your brain is made up of fat and 30 per cent of that fat is a specific omega-3 fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid or DHA. DHA is important for the functioning of the cells in your brain called neurons. Cold water fish such as salmon, mackerel and trout are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty have anti-inflammatory properties and the regular consumption of fatty fish has been shown in scientific studies to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. Consuming two, 3 ounce servings per week will have you covered. Look for wild, sustainable sources in the marketplace and if you are not sure, ask your fish monger for guidance. If you are not a fan of eating fish, a quality nutritional supplement will also do the trick.

Get Your Vitamin E

A potent antioxidant, vitamin E may help protect neurons or brain cells from age-related damage. In Parkinson’s disease, brain cells in the substantia nigra, a specific area in the brain, begin to die which leads to the cognitive and motor decline. Avocados, nuts and seeds are good sources of healthy fats and vitamin E. Research has shown that adequate levels of vitamin E in your blood stream corresponds with less cognitive decline as you age. Eat a handful of nuts and seeds each day such as walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds and sunflower seeds. Sliced avocado can be enjoyed on its own or added to your salad or smoothie.

Enjoy some dark chocolate

The antioxidants in dark chocolate protect the blood vessels that bring circulation to your brain from deterioration. Dark chocolate also contains caffeine which has mood enhancing effects and helps to improve concentration. Choose dark chocolate that is 70% or higher and don’t eat the whole thing in one sitting. 1 ounce per day is all you need to reap the brain boosting benefits of this superfood.

Rosemary for your brain

Sprigs of rosemary have long been used as a symbol of healthy brain aging – and for good reason. For a long time, elders have used rosemary as a tonic. Now science confirms this use as we age. One randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study involving 28 adults of an average of 75 years found that rosemary made a difference in cognitive function. However, the researchers warned that if you go to extremely high doses (around 6000 mg), it can have the opposite effect.

Get up and move

Exercise is important for your body and your brain. Exercise increases circulation and oxygenation to your brain cells and increases the growth of new neurons, especially in the areas of your brain that are associated with memory and learning. Aim to move your body for 30 minutes each day and your body and brain will thank you. Consider cardiovascular activities such as walking or running, stretching or yoga and weight bearing exercises such as free weights.

Learn something new

Your brain is like a muscle. As you learn new things, you strengthen the connection between your brain cells which essentially makes your brain stronger as it works to remember this new information. Visit the art gallery and museums, attend seminars, take up new hobbies or learn a new language. A study published in the journal Neuropsychology found that adults between the ages 60 to 83 years who had studied an instrument at some point in their lives did better on cognitive tests than those with no musical background. Commit yourself to lifelong learning. It’s never too late.

About the Author

Dr. Olivia Rose graduated from the University of Guelph with a Bachelor of Science Honours degree in Nutritional and Nutraceutical Sciences and in 2006, she graduated from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine.

In addition to her private practice, Dr. Rose is the director of Fertility Acupuncture Services, a mobile service that brings acupuncture to couples undergoing in vitro fertilization and intrauterine insemination at Toronto fertility clinics. Her special areas of interest include infertility; children and teen health; stress management; weight loss; heart disease; digestive and immune health; skin rejuvenation and pain management. She is a birth doula and has additional training in cosmetic acupuncture and needle-less therapies for skin rejuvenation and joint pain.

Dr. Rose is a sought-after lecturer for community organizations; a freelance writer and mentor to new graduates. She has been interviewed by various media outlets including Global Toronto’s, “The Morning Show”, “News at Noon” and “News Hour”. In her free time, she unplugs at the spa and she enjoys spending quality time with her husband, son and tea-cup Yorkie. For more information on Dr. Rose's practice and special events, please visit -