Healthy lifestyle habits — such as eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, managing your weight, and not smoking — benefit your brain as much as the rest of your body. And keeping your brain healthy may be the key to preventing cognitive decline later in life.

Research suggests that the same risk factors that cause atherosclerosis — hardening of the arteries — may also contribute to cognitive impairment. As we age, arteries carrying blood to the brain may become narrow or damaged, which reduces blood flow to the brain and could contribute to dementia. Adopting habits that help keep your arteries strong is not only good for your heart, it can also help protect your brain function.

It’s never too early to start thinking about ways to keep your brain healthy. Start adopting these brain-boosting habits now to reduce the risk of cognitive impairment as you age.

1. Do a crossword

Make crossword puzzles part of your daily routine. Completing word puzzles helps increase attention, reasoning, and memory. In fact, studies have shown that people who consistently do crosswords have brains that are as much as ten years younger than their chronological age. Researchers also found a link between the frequency of crossword use and the speed and accuracy of performance on cognitive tests. To keep your brain sharp, start each day with a crossword or similar word puzzle.

2. Hit the sauna

Saunas are great for clearing the skin and helping to rid your body of harmful chemicals. What’s more, research indicates that spending time in the sauna may also reduce your risk of dementia. Researchers found that moderate to high sauna use — up to 7 sessions per week — was associated with lower rates of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in middle-aged Finnish men.

3. Get a good night’s sleep

The importance of adequate, quality sleep cannot be overstated. Even if you believe you can function with very little sleep, your body needs rest for repair and recovery. The body may also use sleep to flush toxins out of the brain. Researchers injected mice with a protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease and found that the protein disappeared faster when the mice were asleep. To keep your brain healthy, aim for 7-8 hours of sleep every night.

4. Sing a song

Singing may boost cognitive function. In a four-month study of patients with moderate to severe dementia, researchers found that patients who received vocal lessons three times a week scored higher on a test of cognitive skills. Researchers also looked at brain scans of the participants and found that singing activated the left side of the brain, which controls logic, language, and reasoning.

5. Take a walk

Going for a walk may boost your brain function. Studies have shown that simple exercise, such as walking and resistance training, improved memory and thinking in older adults. Walking for one hour, three times a week, was found to help improve cognitive abilities in some seniors with vascular cognitive disorder. Walking regularly can also help reduce blood pressure, cholesterol, and the risk of heart disease.

6. Exercise

In addition to walking, taking part in other types of exercise is beneficial for your brain. Researchers at the University of Canberra in Australia found that a combination of aerobic and resistance exercise was most effective at improving brain health and function in people over the age of 50. Researchers examined 39 studies and found that exercise promoted cognitive benefits regardless of an individual’s current state of brain health. Aerobic exercise was associated with improved cognitive abilities, while strength training was associated with improvements in executive function and memory. A few studies also found that tai chi helped improve cognitive abilities.

7. Meditate

Meditation has been found to promote numerous benefits: it can help reduce anxiety and stress, improve emotional health, and lower blood pressure. It may also help reduce the risk of cognitive impairment. In a study, individuals who meditated for 20 minutes every day for 12 weeks experienced greater improvements in visual-spatial memory skills than participants who underwent memory training. The meditation group also had lower levels of anxiety and depression, and scored better in the areas of coping skills and stress resilience.

8. Try fasting

Calorie-restricted diets such as alternate-day fasting have been shown to boost production of a protein that is involved in the production of new brain cells. This protein, known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor, can also help protect brain cells from changes associated with cognitive decline. Although traditional methods of fasting may be difficult, new research and developments make it more accessible for the general public. The ProLon fasting mimicking diet allows people to experience many of the same benefits of fasting while still eating three meals a day. Meals in the ProLon kit include plant-based soups and snacks high in healthy fats, which provide a feeling of fullness even when consuming fewer calories. Learn more about ProLon and find out if it’s right for you.