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- Journalist, medical correspondent, neurosurgeon
Brain health is one of the hottest topics in the medical world, and for good reason: As more of the population ages, more people are developing dementia, a category of progressive brain disorders that includes Alzheimer's disease. Neurosurgeon and CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is on a personal mission to promote brain health—as he writes in the book Keep Sharp, his grandfather died from Alzheimer's disease—and he has isolated five science-backed ways to reduce your risk of the same fate. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Regular exercise is the most important thing you can do for brain health, says Gupta. "Exercise, both aerobic and nonaerobic (strength training), is not only good for the body; it's even better for the brain," he writes in Keep Sharp. "Using sugar to fuel your muscles instead of sitting idle in your blood helps prevent dramatic glucose and insulin fluctuations … that increase the risk for dementia. Exercise also helps lower inflammation, and that is critical in preventing dementia."
Eat a Healthy Diet
Gupta writes that what's "good for the heart is good for the brain" and "clean living can slash your risk of developing a serious mind-destroying disorder, including Alzheimer's disease, even if you carry genetic risk factors." He recommends consuming less red meat and processed foods and more fruits and vegetables. And one brain food in particular: "Berries, in terms of what they can do for the brain and some of these certain chemicals that they release, are probably going to be one of your best foods," said Gupta.
Cut This One Thing From Your Diet
Rid your daily routine of foods with added sugar. "Many well-designed studies have found that people with high blood sugar had a faster rate of cognitive decline than those with normal blood sugar," Gupta writes.
Get Enough Sleep
"We're learning that the brain is constantly going through this 'rinse cycle' at night," said Gupta. During that time, the brain takes the experiences you had throughout the day and consolidates them into memory, clearing away debris like plaques and toxins which can lead to dementia. Aim for seven to nine hours a night. If you're dreaming in the morning before you wake up, it's a good sign your brain has been through the self-cleaning cycle.
"We know that social interaction is so critically important," said Gupta. "We are social creatures. We know that there are certain neurochemicals that are released when we actually can touch and look someone directly in the eye." Social interaction is a major predictor of neurogenesis, or the creation of new brain cells, which reduces the risk of dementia. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.