SOURCES: Mary Ann Bauman, M.D., physician and chair, American Stroke Association advisory committee, Oklahoma City; Heather Snyder, Ph.D., director, medical and scientific operations, Alzheimer's Association, Chicago; Norman Relkin, M.D., neurologist, Cornell University's Weill Cornell Medical College, and board member, American Federation for Aging Research, both in New York City
TUESDAY, June 30, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- People who want to stay sharp as they age often turn to brain teasers, puzzles and games, figuring correctly that they'll lose it if they don't use it.
But a healthy body is also key to maintaining a healthy brain, and that's something many people tend to overlook, experts say.
"We're just now starting to get people to recognize that eating right and exercising and maintaining your health can play into the graceful aging of your brain," said Dr. Mary Ann Bauman, an Oklahoma City physician and chair of the American Stroke Association advisory committee.
Healthy living tips make up more than half of the "10 Ways to Love Your Brain" recently released by the Alzheimer's Association, as part of June's Alzheimer's & Brain Awareness Month.
An estimated 47 million people worldwide are living with dementia in 2015, and this number is projected to triple by 2050, according to the Alzheimer's Association.
Medical science cannot stop the progression of either dementia or Alzheimer's disease, but everyone can take steps to maintain their ability to think, problem solve and remember as they grow older, said Heather Snyder, director of medical and scientific operations for the Alzheimer's Association.
"There's no one specific thing that if you do this, you will reduce your risk," Snyder said. "It's really a balance of these top 10 ways to love your brain. By doing all these things in balance, you're going to age as healthfully as you can."
Maintaining the health of your heart and your circulatory system appears to be a key factor in protecting your mental capabilities, Bauman said.
Researchers now believe that micro-strokes -- tiny decreases in blood flow to the brain -- can add up and, over time, cause a person to suffer a loss of their faculties, she said.
By keeping the brain both healthy and active, a person can preserve what's called their "brain reserve" -- the ability of the brain to weather various insults, including aging, said Dr. Norman Relkin, a neurologist at Cornell University's Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City and a board member of the American Federation of Aging Research.
"The more brain reserve a person brings to the table, the older they can get without showing signs and symptoms of memory loss," Relkin said.
The Alzheimer's Association tip sheet urges everyone to:
The remaining tips offered by the Alzheimer's Association focus on keeping your brain busy and active, which also can help by forcing the brain to preserve and build up its neural connections, Relkin said.
These brain-centered tips from the Alzheimer's Association include:
"All these pieces of advice seem to bear out in the reduction of the development of dementia," Relkin said. "We have a lot of knowledge about ways to prevent the deterioration of the brain due to aging, and they all appear to be beneficial in terms of preserving the health of the brain."
Visit the U.S. National Institutes of Health for more on brain health.