Growing More Brain on a Budget

by Joanne Guidoccio
Realtor Tips for Preparing Home for Sale photo

If you’d like to help prevent diseases such as Alzheimer’s or dementia as you grow older, use these low-cost suggestions for improving your brainpower and staying sharp.

“You’re sharp…sharper than before.”

I was surprised and pleased by the compliment. My good friend, Magda, was visiting and made this comment after reading some of my articles and watching me move around the condo.

I have been retired for over three years, and while the pace of my life has slowed down considerably, I have made a concerted effort to keep my brain active. As the daughter of parents with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, I am always on the lookout for new ways of improving brainpower.

But I am not prepared to fork out enormous sums of money for supplements and other products that make dubious claims. Instead, I read columns and books written by health experts such as Daniel Amen, Tony Buzan, David Snowdon, Andrew Weil, Deepak Chopra, and Mehmet Oz and take careful note of any low-cost and no-cost suggestions for improving brainpower.

Eat Less and Exercise More

The experts agree that obesity is bad for the brain and doubles the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists have found that calorie-restricted animals nearly always stay active and healthy until the end of their lives.

Since retiring, I have watched my caloric intake very carefully, and I exercise 200 to 220 minutes a week. I use the treadmill five to six times a week, lift weights twice a week, and practice yoga. I lost over ten pounds and have kept the weight off.

You deserve a comfortable retirement.

That's why our weekly newsletter, After 50 Finances, is dedicated to people 50 years and older.

Each week we feature financial topics and lifestyle issues important to the 50+ crowd that can help you plan for and enjoy a comfortable retirement even if you haven't saved enough.

Subscribers get The After 50 Finances Pre-Retirement Checklist for FREE!

Sign up today for your comfortable retirement.

We respect your privacy. We hate spam. Unsubscribe at any time.


I have always been an avid reader, but this past year, I started cross-reading. I joined a book club and discovered books that I would never have picked up on my own. At first, I found it challenging to read some of the selections, but I persisted and became more open to different points of view. I enjoyed reading many of the translations based in the Middle East and Asia and started reading more about these countries.

I also started attending more book readings and lectures. Often, I do not recognize or know the authors and presenters, but I look forward to adding their books to my reading list.


I paid close attention to the findings of the Nun Study, which was released in 2001. Epidemiologist David Snowdon conducted a longitudinal study of aging, which followed 678 members of the School Sisters of Notre Dame. These women continued to teach and serve, retaining their mental faculties well into their eighties and nineties. The scientists discovered that the nuns who had better language abilities early in life were less likely to exhibit the symptoms of mild dementia or full-blown Alzheimer’s.

Since retiring, I have spent anywhere from two to five hours a day writing articles, book reviews, short stories, and blog entries. I have also completed a 77,000-word urban fantasy novel.

Increase Mental Exercise

Tony Buzan, author of The Mind Map Book, believes that our memories can improve if we simply take the time to utilize and improve our brains. He suggests that we take courses, learn a new language, and change our daily routines.

Since retiring, I have taken a number of creative writing courses and joined Toastmasters. While the process of writing, memorizing and presenting a speech has been challenging, I am pleased with my improved communication skills and increased confidence. I also enjoy completing the crossword puzzle in the daily newspaper. At first, I struggled, but after investing in a crossword dictionary, I increased my speed and improved my vocabulary.

It is so easy to take the path of least resistance by sleeping in each day, watching more television, and limiting social contact. When this happens, the brain can start to lose its ability to discern and assimilate new information. To keep our brains properly stimulated, it is important to keep changing our environments.

Not long after I retired, my television broke down and the repairman took five weeks to fix it. During that time, I found myself meeting more friends for dinner, driving further distances to lectures, and ensuring that I had a different activity each evening. After the television was fixed, I found my viewing time had decreased considerably.

In his book, Change Your Brain, Change Your Body, Dr. Daniel Amen provides additional suggestions on how to set more change in motion. I found the following tips useful:

  • Buy an unfamiliar food like daikon, quinoa, or bresaola. Then, find a recipe and make a meal using it.
  • Rearrange the furniture in one room of your home. I ended up redecorating my entire condo.
  • When renting a movie, try a new genre. For example, check out science fiction, foreign films, and documentaries.
  • Reconnect with a friend you haven’t seen in a while.
  • Think back to a favorite hangout or activity from your high school or university days. Revisit the place or activity and watch your mindset change.

Reviewed March 2024

About the Author

For 31 years, Joanne Guidoccio taught mathematics, computer science, business and career education courses in secondary schools throughout Ontario. Her articles, book reviews, and short stories have been published in newspapers, magazines, and online. She has bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and education and a Career Development Practitioner diploma.

Sign me up for a comfortable retirement!

Every Thursday we’ll send you articles and tips that will help you enjoy a comfortable retirement. Subscribers get a free copy of the After 50 Finances Pre-Retirement Checklist.

We respect your privacy. We hate spam. Unsubscribe at any time.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This