Report: Sustaining healthy brain behaviors requires individual and community commitment

By Alzheimer's Prevention Bulletin


A weakening brain is not an inevitable part of aging. While the brain does change with age just like other parts of our bodies, research shows that taking good care of our brains can help prevent decline.

How to sustain healthy brain behaviors and provide tips and tools to help people act in ways that can positively impact their brain health was the focus of the most recent Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) report. GCBH is a collaboration with AARP which releases a report each year on a different aspect of brain health. The report examines how individuals, communities, and supportive public policies can do more to support activities that promote brain health. 

The report focuses on what they have learned about motivating people to maintain brain-healthy lifestyles and how communities can enact policies to promote this important goal. They report that enhancing brain health should include not just a focus on individual activities but on the social and environmental factors that influence people's behavior. 

The report emphasizes the importance of commitment when it comes to making changes to support brain health. We know many lifestyle factors can impact our risk for memory and thinking problems. The challenge is, how do we maintain a lifestyle that will keep us as healthy as possible. 

The GCBH report outlines six pillars of brain health: 

  • Be social 
  • Engage your brain 
  • Manage stress  
  • Stay physically active (moderate to vigorous activity 150 minutes per week) 
  • Get enough sleep (aim for at least seven hours) 
  • Eat a healthy diet designed to control blood pressure and blood sugar 

So, how do we break our old habits to adopt new brain boosting behaviors? While this can be a challenge, GCBH experts provided some tips for making healthy changes. 

  • Set a goal and keep it realistic. Identify your goals and make sure they are achievable for you. This will help you build confidence and momentum. 
  • Find something you enjoy. Choosing activities you enjoy will make it much more likely you'll stick with it. For example, it you don't enjoy exercising at the gym, choose another activity that gives your body a workout. 
  • Take a step-by-step approach. Start out slow and keep track of your progress. Celebrate the little wins along the way.  
  • Repurpose your free time. Free time can be hard to come by. Consider swapping out some screen time for getting together with friends or taking a walk. 
  • Anticipate obstacles. Preparing ahead for changes in your routine will help you stick to your plan. For example, when you travel, think about how to accomplish your daily exercise in a new location. 
  • Get support from friends and family. We can all use a coach to cheer us on. Find a buddy to exercise with. Talk with friends about how you are changing your diet so they can support you. 
  • Don't let setbacks set you back. Your first plan won't be perfect. When you have a setback, learn from it, and make changes to help you achieve your goals.   

You can read the full report to learn more about the recommended, multi-faceted approach to behavior change for individuals, communities and policy makers. The approach is designed to ensure all stakeholders have the knowledge, motivation and confidence to create ongoing lifestyle changes in their communities.  

Engage your brain by participating in a brain health focused research study. Visit the Alzheimer's Prevention Registry Find a Study page today to learn more about studies in your area, and online!