Neurosurgeon Sanjay Gupta’s new book is the result of his review of global research on brain health and cognitive function and gives advice on how to protect your brain from decline. It contains a wide range of information, including debunking certain myths whilst putting forward lifestyle and behaviour actions we can take to stay as healthy as we can. His main messages are not new and have been covered in the media and here on AgeWithMe, what is new is that he reveals that brain decline can start at a much earlier age than many of us might believe so it is important to follow healthy behaviours as soon as we can in life.
In “Keep Sharp, Build a Better Brain at any Age” Dr Gupta’s main messages are :
- Get enough sleep
- Learn and discover
- Eat well
Exercise is put as a high priority, and happily every little bit counts if you are not able to do very much. It has many benefits of course. Specifically for brain health, though, aerobic exercise reduces inflammation and promotes the growth of neural cells. In addition to the way memories are managed during sleep, new discoveries suggest that cerebrospinal fluid flushes through the brain whilst we sleep, washing and clearing ‘debris’. Learning new skills, problem-solving, and reasoning create new neural pathways so learning a new language or doing a course is more effective than puzzles and mind games. Following a healthy diet is where his acronym SMART comes from i.e. S : Stay away from refined sugar; H : Hydrate regularly; A : Add Omega 3 fatty acids naturally; R : Reduce meal portions; P : Plan ahead for healthy meals and snacks rather than be tempted by junk food. Finally social connections, always important anyway, seem significant as loneliness is now being seen as a factor in developing Alzheimer’s.
As I pointed out much of this information is already in the public domain. Dr Gupta’s book includes, however, questionnaires about your current behaviour, and a personalised 12 week brain health programme. Reviewers also found his book reassuring in distinguishing between quite normal memory decline and signs that memory loss is more concerning. (See also my ‘Dementia Myths’ post on 3rd March 2021).