Even though some cognitive decline is normal as you age, being proactive with your brain health can ensure you stay at the top of your game long into your golden years. But just how exactly do you do that? With plenty of tools and options out there, Harvard researchers have sorted through the noise and compiled this list of the top 7 strategies you can use to stay mentally sharp.

1. Don't stop learning.

Whether you tackle a hobby or stretch project at work, researchers think challenging your brain with mental exercise helps maintain brain cells, keeping communications between neurons humming.

2. Use all your senses.

Combining senses as you learn--for example, tracing a word you want to learn with your finger, saying it aloud and looking at it--helps involve more parts of your brain in memory formation and recall.

3. Believe in yourself.

Research indicates that mental decline is somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Individuals who believe they'll do poorly on memory tests or who don't believe they're in control of their memory perform more poorly and are more likely to experience decline, in part because they don't actively try to improve memory skills. Don't stop believing (yup!).

4. Economize your brain use.

The more you can use calendars, routine "homes" for belongings, reminder apps, etc., the more energy you can put toward memorizing what's truly critical. Be selective and know what to prioritize.

5. Repeat what you want to know.

Repetition through writing, speaking, or even movement will reinforce memory connections.

I repeat: 

Repetition through writing, speaking, or even movement will reinforce memory connections.

6. Space repetition out.

Don't cram. Instead, restudy, and repeat what you need to know over longer and longer intervals.

7. Make a mnemonic.

This way of remembering lists works once again because it forces you to use different parts of your brain. It adds associations and patterns for more meaning, organizes the information for easier retrieval, and involves visualization that makes the data more vivid and fun.

Pro tip: every last one of the items on this list is something you can put into practice today and, even better, share with someone you care about. So, which do you want to try first?