How to Increase Mental Sharpness

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How to Increase Mental Sharpness

by | Jun 16, 2023

Mental sharpness, or mental acuity, can mean a lot of things, but basically, it’s measured by how good your memory is, how you process and learn new ideas, and your levels of concentration, focus, and understanding. The stronger these things are, the more mentally sharp you are.

Some factors affecting brain health are out of our control, but we can still do a lot to improve mental sharpness. Here are four significant things you can do to support brain health as you age.

1. Exercise More

Everyone knows exercise is good for your body, but new research shows it can impact brain health. Interestingly, the benefits of exercise for your brain are only observed in moderate to high-intensity training when the heart rate is elevated to a higher degree than with lower intensity. The greater the stimulation, the more our brains must grow and develop.

Exercise also causes an increase in dopamine, the “feel-good” hormone, and increases sensitivity to dopamine in the brain. More dopamine leads to an improved mood and less depression and anxiety, which may protect against degenerative brain conditions.

2. Eat a Balanced Diet

We usually think of caloric intake and maintaining a healthy weight when we talk about nutrition, but what we eat can contribute to mental sharpness and increased brain acuity over our lifetimes.

Poor nutrition can affect the brain in a variety of ways. Diets high in processed foods and sugar can lead to mood disorders, and they cause inflammation and oxidative stress that can lead to neurological issues in the future.

What nutrients should we focus on to improve mental sharpness? Here are just a few:

  • Iron: Low iron is associated with a variety of conditions, including anemia, which results in decreased oxygen delivery to the brain.
  • Protein: Protein is necessary for muscle development but also plays a vital role in brain health. Protein is used to produce multiple neurotransmitters, including dopamine and tryptophan, the precursor to serotonin. Low levels of these neurotransmitters can cause mood disorders, anxiety, and depression.
  • Essential fatty acids: Linoleic and alpha-linolenic fatty acids are not created in the body, but they are used to build omega fatty acids necessary for the structure and composition of neurotransmitters.

3. Get Enough Sleep

Many people do not get enough sleep, and as many as 70 million adults suffer from a sleep disorder. Poor sleep habits lead to multiple issues, including fatigue, increased cravings, and decreased cognitive performance. But it can also have longer-term effects on brain health, including increased oxidative stress, build-up of free radicals, and a smaller hippocampus and cerebral cortex. Some of these factors are precursors to dementia and Alzheimer’s.

If you don’t get enough sleep, here are a few things you can try to get a restful night’s sleep.

  • Spend at least 20 minutes in a cool, dark room away from all electronics, including smartphones and tablets, before trying to sleep. The light from these devices can disrupt your natural sleep rhythm, which can make it harder to get into a deep sleep.
  • Avoid working out and drinking caffeinated drinks before bedtime. These things can elevate your blood pressure and heart rate, which can make it challenging to calm down before bedtime.
  • Be careful with naps. A 30-minute nap early in the day is enough to improve your focus or make you feel refreshed, but any longer than that can make you feel more tired and prevent you from sleeping soundly at night.
  • Strength training can increase the body’s need for recovery, which can trigger your body to enter a deeper sleep and stay asleep longer.

4. Take Supplements

You may have gaps in your nutrition even if you try to follow a healthy diet, but supplements can help make up for these deficiencies. Some supplements you might want to consider include the following:

  • Fish oil: A lot of research has been done on fish oil. It’s loaded with omega fatty acids, which can improve mental acuity. High levels of some of these fats can help people respond better to stress and may positively impact those with depression.
  • Ginkgo Biloba: Researchers have studied Ginkgo Biloba thoroughly. It has been shown to reduce the risks of blood clots, has anti-inflammatory effects, and is a natural antioxidant.
  • Choline: Choline is found naturally in legumes, beef liver, nuts, and eggs. It acts as a precursor to acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that passes chemical messages between neurons in the brain. Choline can increase acetylcholine for faster information transfer and better overall mental sharpness.

Take Steps to Improve Your Mental Acuity

Aging has many effects on the body, and while we easily notice physical changes, like wrinkles, aches, and gray hair, we may not recognize it if we start to lose our mental sharpness. We must be proactive to protect our brain health. If we don’t take the necessary preventative steps, both our physical and mental health will decline.

As mentioned above, four of the best things we can do for our mental acuity are to make sure we get enough exercise and sleep, eat a proper diet, and take supplements when needed to make up for any deficiencies. Combined, these four factors will provide a strong defense against changes in mental acuity and support your brain health well into the future.


Any opinions are those of Thomas Fleishel and not necessarily those of Raymond James. Any information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision and does not constitute a recommendation. Every investor’s situation is unique and you should consider your investment goals, risk tolerance and time horizon before making any investment. Prior to making an investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation.


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