Is 27 Too Early To Consider Brain Health? My Test Results Say No
I just turned 27 a week ago, and there's no denying I'm nestled smack-dab in the middle of my late 20s. While 25 and 26 felt like I was just starting to get settled into adulthood, 27 definitely feels on my way to 30.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not afraid of aging. In fact, I'm quite excited for my 30s and all the life events I have on the horizon. I've dreamt of becoming a mom since I was a kid myself, and I'm looking forward to starting a family with my partner in the near-ish future. (Yes, I said "near-ish"—let's not rush it, people! I'm only 27!)
Why I'm thinking about my brain longevity now.
I know that when I do eventually have kids, I want to be as healthy as possible—not just for the sake of hopefully getting pregnant and having a healthy pregnancy but for motherhood as well. Keeping pace with energetic tiny humans is no small feat, so I'm striving to optimize my well-being over these next few years (and beyond) to ensure my mind and body are up for the challenge.
And sure, if I want more physical energy, exercise and balanced nutrition are the way to go. But what about mental well-being? The central nervous system is complex, and there are endless lifestyle habits that affect whether or not it runs smoothly. How the heck are we supposed to tell how healthy our brains are?
How I tested my brain health.
While quite a few digital brain health tests have been created to help neuroscientists and neurologists test their clients' memory, cognitive function, and more (e.g., Automated Neuropsychological Assessment Metrics, BrainCheck, Savonix, Wave Neuro—the list goes on), there aren't too many comprehensive online tests for healthy adults that are accessible to the general public.
Ultimately, I decided to measure my brain health with the Cleveland Clinic Brain Check-Up. This free assessment, which can be taken online or on the Healthy Brains app, evaluates six key pillars of brain health through a series of straightforward questions:
- The medical health section asked about my weight, height, personal medical history, and cigarette smoking status.
- The mental fitness section asked about learning new information and skills, attending cultural events, stimulating mental activities, and reading habits.
- The physical fitness section asked about exercise frequency, duration, type, and intensity.
- The sleep and relaxation section asked about sleep habits, stress management, and overall life satisfaction.
- The social interaction section asked about relationships with family and friends, relationship status, living arrangements, and participation in social and community activities.
- The food and nutrition section asked about diet, supplement use, and alcoholic beverages.
You're given a score for each pillar, plus a cumulative score called the Brain Health Index (BHI) that gives you a snapshot of your current brain health status. Additionally, the Cleveland Clinic offers tips and resources to improve your score (i.e., your overall brain health).
What I learned from my Brain Check-Up results.
When you think about it, your brain health affects every other aspect of your well-being. That means the reverse is true as well: Everything you do for your health: what you eat, how you move your body, whether you effectively manage stress, how you navigate relationships, etc.—directly affects your cognitive function and overall brain health.
This isn't groundbreaking information; we all know lifestyle habits contribute to (or work against) a healthy brain. Some choices—like eating omega-3-rich fatty fish, exercising, and learning new things—promote brain health in an obvious way.
I was surprised by some of the other ways to support a healthy brain, especially mental fitness habits like challenging ourselves to do routine tasks in a different way and attending cultural events (i.e., museums, galleries, concerts, and theater performances).
As the supplements editor at mindbodygreen, I was really excited to see the Brain Check-Up ask if participants take a multivitamin, vitamin C, B vitamins, or an omega-3 supplement with DHA. These supplements—and others, like mbg's newest nootropic formulas, focus+ and brain guard+—have incredible benefits for cognitive function and mental well-being.*
How I'm taking care of my brain moving forward.
The nuanced nature of brain longevity used to overwhelm me, but after testing my brain health, I know which areas I'm doing well in and which could use some improvement.
I found that while my medical health, social interactions, and mental fitness activities are helping my brain stay healthy, I could use some improvement in the sleep and relaxation, physical activity, and food and nutrition pillars.
Here are some habits I'm actively working on to improve my BHI and overall brain health:
- Introducing more brain-supporting foods (e.g., fatty fish, fruits, and vegetables) to my diet.
- Adding more brain-supporting supplements to my daily routine—specifically mbg's omega-3 potency+ and brain guard+ (which promotes mental clarity, learning speed, memory, and cognitive performance with nootropic bioactives citicoline, resveratrol, and kanna).*
- Exercising more frequently throughout the week.
- Adding more mindfulness activities (e.g., meditation, journaling, breathing exercises) to my weekly routine to manage my stress better.
- Developing a nighttime routine to wind down before bed and aiming for eight hours of sleep per night.
- Continuing to challenge my brain by cooking new recipes, doing puzzles, and reading.
If you're curious about your own brain health and longevity, check out these 11 signs you need to take better care of your brain, and take the Cleveland Clinic Brain Check-Up yourself!
Morgan Chamberlain is a supplement editor at mindbodygreen. She graduated from Syracuse University with a Bachelor of Science degree in magazine journalism and a minor in nutrition. Chamberlain believes in taking small steps to improve your well-being—whether that means eating more plant-based foods, checking in with a therapist weekly, or spending quality time with your closest friends. When she isn’t typing away furiously at her keyboard, you can find her cooking in the kitchen, hanging outside, or doing a vinyasa flow.