Everybody’s brain changes with age. As you get older, you may find yourself forgetting names, or words, or where you put your keys—and that’s normal. But for the 6 million Americans who are living with Alzheimer’s, those changes to the brain are different. In fact, they can be so severe that over time, it’s difficult for a person living with Alzheimer’s to walk or even speak.  

Families that have encountered Alzheimer’s know how devastating the disease can be. The Alzheimer’s Association describes it as “a type of dementia that affects memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms eventually grow severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.” It’s a condition that scientists still don’t fully understand, and there’s no cure.

What medical experts do know is there are certain risk factors for developing Alzheimer’s, including age (after age 65, the risk of developing it doubles every five years) and genetics. Further, older people who are Latino or Black are more likely to be diagnosed with it than Caucasian people. Lifestyle factors, too, could play a role in who gets Alzheimer’s. There’s a link, for example, between people who have had head injuries—whether from sports, accidents, car crashes, falls or other reasons—and those who develop Alzheimer’s.

While Alzheimer’s may be a condition that’s beyond your control, making a commitment to a healthier lifestyle could lower your risk for developing it, and could also improve your overall brain health. With that in mind, here are some steps you can take, today, to show your brain some love.

  1. Re-think what you eat. Here’s some food for thought: according to the Cleveland Clinic, a diet called the MIND Diet—which mixes the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet—could actually reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s by one-third. The MIND diet is filled with “brain boosters,” such as fish with omega-3 fatty acids, poultry and berries, and limits foods that are fried, red meat and sugar-laden treats.   

  1. Keep learning. Education should never stop. According to Harvard Medical School, mentally stimulating activities could actually help form new connections in your brain. So nerd out on learning a new language, playing a musical instrument, writing a novel and more. You could even go back to school and pick up a degree. You’d have nothing on Shigemi Hirata, who holds the Guinness World Record for “Oldest Graduate” at 96 years young.

  1. Crank up some music. Music boosts the brain like few other things. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, listening to tunes can improve creativity, spark memories, help with concentration and mood—and it could even reduce anxiety, blood pressure and pain. 

  1. Move more. Exercise doesn’t just help you feel better, physically, it also helps you function better cognitively and mentally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and could even lower your risk for dementia. For adults, the general recommendation is 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity physical activity per week. But the CDC goes on to say, “you don’t have to be a fitness guru to reap the benefits. Any amount of physical activity can help.”

  1. Get enough sleep. If you’ve ever tossed and turned all night long, then you’re familiar with how woozy restlessness makes you feel the next day. You may be moody, or irritable or struggle to remember things or think clearly. That’s because your brain depends on sleep to rest, repair and reset. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke puts it like this: “Without sleep you can’t form or maintain the pathways in your brain that let you learn and create new memories, and it’s harder to concentrate and respond quickly.” Adults need at least seven hours a night, and should consider slumber a need, not a want.

  1. Keep filling your social calendar. Think about your last social activity. Whether it was a party, coffee with a friend or a game night, consider how you had to be “on” that night, from planning what to wear and how to get there to making conversation, listening and laughing. That’s a lot of activity for your brain, and according to Harvard Medical School, the payoff for being a social butterfly could help you think later in life.

Healthy actions could lead to a healthier brain and a happier life. But, of course, there’s no guarantee, and when an individual or family experiences Alzheimer’s and dementia, it can feel devastating and isolating. Be sure to learn about the warning signs of Alzheimer’s. The Alzheimer’s Association lists some of those as memory loss that’s disruptive to your life, difficulty completing familiar tasks and new problems with words in speaking or writing (see the list here). If you’re worried that you or a loved one might be experiencing signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s or dementia, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with your doctor. He or she can provide the help and referrals you need.