You may recognize Sanjay Gupta, MD, as CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent. He’s also a neurosurgeon who published a new book Keep Sharp: Build a Better Brain at Any Age with tips on how to protect your mind as you age. When promoting the book he appeared on the podcast, Armchair Expert, and shared his number one tip for keeping your brain sharp.
He shares that it’s never too early or too late to start taking care of your brain and hones in on five areas that can help you keep your brain healthy. The five different pillars that Gupta identifies as important for brain health are:
So, what is the best thing you can do for your brain?
Per Gupta, “Take a brisk walk, with a close friend, and discuss your problems.” This one activity provides movement and connection, which are important for your brain. We know that moving your body is important in so many ways for your health, including your brain health, and adding that level of connection makes it even more important.
Full disclosure, I haven’t read his book, yet, but I do agree with his number one tip. Walking with friends lets me get outside, move my body and I almost always feel better afterwards after sharing good conversation. It’s nice to know that one of my favorite activities also is helping my brain.
Gupta gives advice on how to have more purpose-driven conversations with close friends and family beyond just the casual, “how are you?” questions and “fine,” answers that come up. Asking for help with a problem helps people feel really invested in helping you solve it and you’ll learn more from the solutions they’re able to help offer up. All this walking and talking helps recruit new parts of your brain.
He also advises nourishing your brain with super foods that you’ve identified for yourself. Of course, certain foods are more nutrient dense than others, but Gupta kept a food journal to find the foods that helped him feel best and fermented pickles became his go-to before sitting down to a big task to keep his brain feeling its best. Sleep and rest are also important for your brain (here are 4 ways to get a better night’s sleep, according to an expert).
And don’t forget to do things that scare you and challenge you every day. Per Gupta, getting outside of your comfort zone activates “new roads” in your brain that can help you think about things differently and buffer you as you get older from cognitive decline and dementia.